A relative newcomer to Denver, artist Frankie Toan is already well embedded in the city’s under-the-radar art communities. A former PlatteForum resident and a current second-year resident at RedLine, Toan creates work that's rooted in craft and heavy on message, confronting viewers with alternative social realities, urging them to throw aside fear in favor of curiosity. We invited Toan to speak out via the 100CC questionnaire; keep reading for the full story.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Frankie Toan: The Cockettes. I am incredibly intrigued by the collaborative way in which this group lived, made and established an aesthetic language together. I see the Cockettes’ work as undefined and unhindered by the “rules of art” (whatever those are, anyway). Their work stretched beyond the objects and costumes and personas they made and into their lives and the house that they shared together. While it seems almost like a nightmare to share that much space/material/life together, I also think they were able to make a small world of their own, a world where they created new rules and roles and ways of living.
I would also really love to make props for Peaches concerts.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I find so many things interesting right now, and what a great feeling that is! There are a couple of writers/theorists who have been extremely influential on me recently: Beatriz Preciado and Maggie Nelson. I love that both of these writers are able to weave theory seamlessly into lived experience/embodiment and break down the barriers between the intellectual and the body.
I am utterly captivated by Meow Wolf, the collaborative based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I love that the group is a collaborative, and think their new offering, The House of Eternal Return, is stunning. I am very interested in interactive and immersive art, which seems to be popping up more and more.
I am so in love with a couple of fashion designers: Peggy Nowland and Discount Universe. I love the handwork and playfulness that goes into their designs.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Artists not getting paid to work in the studio.
What's your day job?
I have worked for the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Denver since I moved here. I used to work at the front desk, but now I am behind the scenes working for the development team part-time. I’m in the studio whenever I’m not at the museum.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
-start some type of collaborative studio or pilot program where artists are paid hourly or a yearly salary to work in the studio (you said unlimited funds…) . Of course, people would be so impressed by the amazing work coming out of this space (because the artists were able to fully commit to the studio) that it would be a nationwide trend within several years.
-start buying art from artists that I admire.
-of course continue to make work, but probably make it bigger.
-buy a warehouse or buildings in order to ensure that the DIY spaces here in Denver have actual spaces in the coming years (I have been so inspired by the folks and art that come together in places like Glob and Rhinoceropolis).
-try to partner with Meow Wolf and fund them to have a project in Denver.
-form a whole team of people (who are paid) to help manage and collaborate on these projects, so I could continue to work in the studio as well.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
For the foreseeable future, I am dedicated to Denver. (Perhaps that is a non-answer….) I moved here in June of last year from rural Tennessee (Gatlinburg), and I find it liberating to be in a city again. I have appreciated becoming familiar with the Denver art scene, especially how varied it is. However, I have not appreciated how nervous artists and art spaces feel about their place and longevity in the city. I have been extremely lucky to have been an artist-in-residence at both PlatteForum and RedLine, and both organizations really took me in and gave me a great introduction to Denver. However, some of the places I have gotten to know the best so far seem to be in constant fear of closing, or being demolished. I think that there are lots of opportunities here for artists, but art spaces need to be protected and allowed to imagine a future rather than fearing obliteration.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
Save the DIY spaces. More broadly, keep rent affordable so that all the art spaces and people that have helped build Denver’s art scene can stick around to continue to help it grow.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I am lucky and humbled to have met some amazing people in Denver so far, so it is difficult to pick just one person. But I have to say one of my very favorite Colorado Creatives (and all-around wonderful humans) is Piper Rose. Like many creatives, Piper does a million things. Most notably, Piper emcees Titwrench, a radical feminist music festival that just celebrated its eighth anniversary. Piper also leads, scripts and choreographs the performance group Werkout Palace. They do showga, a live-music-and-yoga class, and spell-casting performances as MOM (Mistress of Magic). But what really stands out to me is how Piper melds art-making with community-building. I think the organizing and galvanizing work to get our communities together is often overlooked, and Piper does an amazing job at reaching out and including folks.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I’m in my second year of residence at RedLine, and I plan to use it as fully as possible. RedLine has had a tremendous impact on me, and my practice and I want to squeeze as much out as possible. I am super- excited to be in some great shows coming up, including the resident artist show at RedLine in January. I am also hosting a murder-mystery art dinner party at Arcana restaurant in Boulder on October 24.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Some artists who continue to inspire me are Daisy Patton and Kate Speer. Daisy is a great painter and serious thinker. Her work is smart, engaging and thoughtful. Kate is an electrifying dancer tackling some very pertinent questions about bodies and space and bodies in space. I am also keeping my eye on John Lake, a recent transplant to Denver and new resident at RedLine.
Learn more about Frankie Toan online.