I open the door and pause. It's dark and warm. I'm not sure what to expect, but I know something unusual awaits.
Maybe a trapdoor on the floor to swallow me up, Alice in Wonderland style. Or the gaping door to a UFO. I take a cautious step forward, half-expecting my stiletto not to land, but instead I stair-step upward through gravity-free air.
Clunk. One normal step.
That's the weirdest part: How normal this feels.
But it can't be. I have seen the photos created here: Bodies twisted in impossible angles, floating, on fire, bursting droplets, growing from tree branches, crammed into bubbles, skin glowing like human stars.
Like a rumbling wave over the past six months, I heard increasingly more people in Boulder County and beyond talking about this artist. More of his photos shocked me through my newsfeeds, until I reached the curiosity threshold to either go mad or go investigate for myself.
So here I am: G. Mark (aka gmark) Lewis' lab. As he directs me to slip on a white full-head bunny mask, I realize madness is a gift here. I feel like Alice's white rabbit.
Lewis himself is a mad scientist, only he experiments with light and shadows instead of chemicals in beakers. In fact, he calls his Loveland-based studio a "lab" because he tries something different every day. He affectionately calls his regular models his "lab rats."
Then there are the "monkeys." That's what he calls his imaginative mind.
He writes on Facebook: Today starts the next era of gmark art. New lab, same monkeys!
Lewis recently relocated across the downtown railroad tracks to 310 N. Railroad at Loveland's Artworks studio, a collaboration of 15 juried artists supported in part by a foundation. His Zero G lab came, too.
That's one of gmark's trademarks that baffles audiences and has landed him in shows across the country, such as the Seattle Erotic Art Festival several years ago. The Seattle Times wrote about Lewis's "black-and-white underwater shots of dancers in dynamic motion," and that's how the show's organizers described it, too.
But there is no swimming pool here. The photos were shot on dry land, Lewis says. Few people can solve the mystery of how.
"I had a 10-year-old kid figure it out. I had lighting people and an engineer figure it out, but not many people do," Lewis says. "I had someone else say, 'I don't know how you do it, and I don't care.' He didn't need to know."
Much like a magician, Lewis does not reveal his tricks -- unless you come by his lab.
Even as I looked at his Zero G lab, my brain twisted and tied itself into tangles trying to fully grasp the concept. As with all of Lewis' art, the light is the secret. Not extensive Photoshopping (he barely uses the technique.) No special digital effects. Control the light, and you control reality -- even the laws of physics.
Light is why Lewis specializes on shooting the female body.
"The female form is full of s-curves: from the shoulders down the side to the hip, the back of the calf, the knee, the side of the butt, it's nothing but s-curves and lines and shadows," he says. "Because of the roundness of everything, you can create wonderful drop-offs on shadows. It's an incredible canvas for light."
Although far from pornographic, gmark's (Tumblr page) might best be viewed at home, not with your coworkers peeping over your shoulder.
He jokes on Facebook: It's wrong to shoot nudes or any form of exotica. From now on I'm only doing barns, horses, and aspen trees.
But his Tumblr bio states the truth: I believe in equal photographic opportunity for all genres of lifestyles.
From pole dancers, to bubble-floaters, to earthbound astronaut dancers, to freaks in bunny masks, tumbling through the looking glass of this unusual artistic lab, compelled by curiosity to see what is on the other side.
It's fun over here.