Meet the Artists

John Ambrosino March 11 2015

Month of Photography (MoP) in full swing

Fine Art Photographer, John Ambrosino is the featured artist at Artists on Santa Fe gallery this month. It’s certainly fitting as March is the official month of photography. I hope you’ve noticed his works on 888MarketStreet. Here’s our little tidbit of the day - he sold the first art from the site.

A local paparazzi-ite, John Ambrosino (aka CityRat) is recognized as a snappy roving figure around downtown Denver. He affects a brassy, hard to decipher Queens, NY, accent, and is known by his working nickname, CityRat. Is it any wonder that everyone knows him. It’s been mentioned before, if there’s one person to hang with, it’s CityRat.

We met at the local bagel shop in Capitol Hill. He was running here and there. Anyone who knows him, knows, he is always itching to be off to the next photo shoot, band, gallery, festival. He happened to be hungry. So we sat down and ate bagels at Moe’s.

888: What is the focus or theme of this show?

JA: The title is, "Across the Board." People are always asking me what kind of photography I shoot. So I designed the show to demonstrate my diverseness. I’ve never limited myself to one genre. ‘Across the Board’ is made up of street photography, abstract landscapes, nature and everyday objects. There 16 new works, ranging in sizes from 10” x 15” to 12” x 24”. And, no, there are no musicians or bands in this show.

888: Tell me about your abstract landscapes, and do you have a favorite photo in the show?

JA:  Actually my favorite in the show is the abstract, nature photo of the mountain goat taken on Mt. Evans. But the best way I can explain my abstract photography, is that it veers from reality. Abstraction applies better to my street photography. Like, I take a shot vertically when it’s obviously a horizontal one. I find abstraction in desolate, lonely places I see in passing or, moments taken through a rainy windshield.

888: Can you explain your technique?

JA: Right now I’m focusing on High Noise Black & White. Shooting at a high ISO to produce the noisy, grainy effect.

888: Can you explain?

JA: High Noise or High ISO produces a displeasing color and grainy effect without using photo shop.  It’s not an original idea. You can get the same effect using grainy film or paper. How I get an atmospheric look comes from the process I use or, the weather conditions which effects the noise. I try to shoot on foggy days or wet streets for reflection.

888: What’s a good example of that technique in the show?

JA: The “Pig & Whistle.” I was driving down W. Colfax in broad daylight and realized that was a shot. Also, I thought I better get that before it goes, and, it is gone now. [the Pig & Whistle was a 1950’s era motel with a big neon sign out front] I stopped, took a quick shot. It was almost a snapshot with no straight lines, and a bit off-kilter.  What I try to do, to create an interesting shot is to shoot through windshields, grain on lens, using as little photo shop as possible. People always ask. It’s not the equipment. Good shots can be taken any time of day. My purpose is to take an everyday shot that becomes a shot, that isn’t everyday.

888: What kind of camera do you use?

JA: Canon 5D Mark II because it’s a full frame camera and I get better resolution.

888: If you could have any camera in the world, what would it be?

JA: Mine works just fine for me.

888: Other than digital, what has changed in photography for you in the last twenty years?

JA: It has to be the way I see things. The picture through my eyes - subject matter, landscapes, streets. I’d say at this stage of my career I lean toward abstract street photography.

888: Do you have a favorite photo that captures all the elements you love about the art of photography?

JA: I’d have to say, “Grounded.”  I shot that in 2009, on Greene Street in Manhattan. I like the layered black & white of the red bicycle, shot on a rainy day.  

888: OK. Everyone wants to know. How’d you get the nickname CityRat?

JA: I was camping with a friend in Wildcat Canyon and I started coughing. My friend asked if I was ok. I said, "There's not enough carbon monoxide up here." My friend replied, ‘You remind me of Ratzo Rizzo, a pure city rat.’ I always thought that was a cool name.

John is also one of the founders of Metro Denver Digital Photography Meet-Up group for beginning photographers. They organize group shoots to teach different types of photography.

“Across the Board” is showing at Artists on Santa Fe, through March. 747 Santa Fe Drive, 80204 

Meet John at the Artist’s Reception: March 20, 6 - 9 p.m.


Mona Lucero March 11 2015


"Design is not for philosophy – it’s for life. – Issey Miyake

Mona has a love for both fashion and art. This results in clothing that is often whimsical,  frequently elegant and always unexpected. She specializes in making designs that make every “body” look great and believes her mission is to help each person find their personal expression and style.

A bit about Mona:

Ever since she can remember, Denver fashion designer Mona Lucero has had a love for both fashion and art. This love results in designs that are often whimsical, sometimes elegant and always unexpected – indeed, a devotion to style.

Her training – a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado at Denver and an Associate in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, has enabled her to bring together the two disciplines into her signature style. She often incorporates fine art techniques and concepts such as found objects, collage and sculptural shapes in her designs.

She has received “Best of” awards from Denver’s Westword, 5280 Magazine, and Fashion Group International and nationally from City Magazine  in New York City. Her work has been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and 303 Magazine. She has been recognized as one of Denver’s top designers for the Fashion Project Contest at Tamarac Square and she has also received Westword’s coveted Fashion Mastermind Award.

Mona’s first memory is of drawing her grandmother’s portrait on the side of a shoebox with a crayon. She thought the drawing captured her grandmother perfectly and at that moment, her dream was to be an artist. Born in San Francisco and growing up in Grand Junction, Colorado, she moved to Denver to start art school and graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s of fine arts degree. While there, she was inspired by soft sculpture and wearable art. All the while dressing as eccentrically as she could think, in her senior year, she found a new love in fashion design. She moved to New York City to graduate with an Associate in Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has worked in a variety of fashion industry jobs including assistant patternmaker, screen print artist, technical designer and activewear designer. She has costume designed for several theatre companies and dance companies such as Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, El Centro Su Teatro and Elitch Gardens Historic Theatre Company. In 1993, in her constant search to bring together art and fashion, she designed and created her first hand-dyed and screen printed collection and began to wholesale her bags and clothing to fashionable shops. In 2002, she opened her original boutique in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood at 15th Street and I-25.

In 2012, redirected her focus on the creation of unique pieces – each custom designed for individual clients.

I've known Mona Lucero since Jazzercize days (like 12 years ago or more). I remember her plans for opening a fashion design business and boutique. She quit our Jazzercize class and quickly became the diva designer in Denver. If anyone has given Denver a name for fashion it's Mona Lucero. 888 Market Street loves Mona and especially her little bow evening purse.