#57: Kendra Fleischman
Over her thirty-year career as an artist, Colorado native Kendra Fleischman has crossed a bridge or two, connecting a traditional sculpture practice in stone and bronze with the digital world of new media. On the large-scale side, you can find her monumental public sculptures installed throughout the Denver metro area; more recently, Fleischman’s digital art was demonstrated in the Denver Art Museum’s movement studio and included among an international slate of artists at Denver’s first Supernova digital animation festival. Where will her imagination lead her next? Get a clue from her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Kendra Fleischman: This is going to sound like a strange combination, but stick with me on this: I would love the opportunity to create a science-fiction-inspired performance piece with the help of Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Martha Graham and Jean Michel-Jarre. Who better to write a short narrative about the folly and hubris of humans creating technologies that ultimately end humankind than Ray Bradbury? I am a big fan of all of his writings. A close friend of Bradbury was Ray Harryhausen, who is considered by many animators, including myself, to be the father of stop motion. Stop-motion animation is very close to my heart, and I am always looking for ways to incorporate stop motion into my artwork. Bringing Mr. Harryhausen into our collaboration would definitely help me push the medium. To choreograph both the movement of figures and use of physical space, I would love to work with Martha Graham. Not only was she a pioneer of modern and experimental dance, but she was also a collaborative artist, often working with musicians, sculptors and designers. Our collaboration would need sound, and I think the electronic works of Jean-Michel Jarre would be perfect. When I was a freshman at CSU, I bought his album Oxygené, and this record had a lot of play time on my turntable. Since Jean-Michel is still alive and working, there is still the possibility of collaborating with him, right? Anyway, working with this particular assemblage of artists would be a fantastic experience, and I have no doubt the resulting piece would be an eclectic and surreal experience for all.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Yayoi Kusama: When you look at her background, where she came from, her personal struggle as a female artist in a very male-dominated art world and her influence on the pop art, minimalism and feminist art movements, you can’t help but find her interesting and inspiring. I am most intrigued by her large-scale installations that transform a space using light, shape and repetition. I find her very interesting, both as a person and an artist.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Artists being asked to loan or give away their work with little or no compensation. If a city were to buy the works or pay the artist a monthly rental fee, that would be a more successful and sustainable business model for the artist. I don’t know any professional field that gives so much work away for free. I hate to say it, but maybe we as artists need to act more businesslike and quit loaning work without fair compensation. I love having my work in public for everyone to enjoy, and the exposure is nice, but the reality is, if I don’t get paid, I can’t create more work.
What's your day job?
I am a full-time studio artist. I have not always been able to dedicate every day to my craft and have worked as an art educator on and off for the past thirty years, most recently as a 3-D art instructor at Denver School of the Arts. Teaching has its own rewards, and I really enjoyed working with young artists over the years. I feel a little selfish leaving the teaching world to indulge in my own art, but having the time and energy to create is crucial for success.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Wow, wouldn’t that be amazing! At first I was thinking I would build an artist community with a huge collaborative arts center allowing artists of all mediums and styles a place to work, exhibit and teach art, but we already have some people organizing spaces for artists, such as Concept – Colorado in Commerce City, which was spearheaded by Jeanie Nuanes King and Loveland Artworks just north of Denver. If I had unlimited funds, I would definitely support these collaborative centers and grow them to include more artists and art forms. For example, I would love to start an animation and experimental-film studio. We have so many gifted animators, filmmakers, musicians, writers and actors here in Denver; we should have a major film/animation studio here. Why should we send all our talent to the coastal regions and let them have all the fun? I would keep them here in Denver and make it a film, animation and art mecca!
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I have lived in the Denver area my entire life, so I’ve been here long enough to witness major changes in Denver and Colorado. Currently, Denver has a positive and youthful vibe that is very exciting, and we feel like a city on the edge of becoming a prominent figure in the art world. However, I am concerned that we are growing too fast, without building infrastructure at the same pace that we are building new apartments, offices, etc. The traffic is increasingly worse every year, and the high rents are forcing many artists to leave Denver, which is really unfortunate.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
Overall, I think Denver is very supportive of the arts and receptive to new ideas and ways to help artists. The people of Colorado value the arts and continually vote to keep the arts alive and thriving. One area of concern specific to Denver is the rising cost of rents for both housing and retail/studio space. I fear that Denver will continue to lose its artist population to other more affordable cities. This will result in a scattering of artists, which is not conducive to collaboration or the growth of an artist community. I have several artist friends who have moved to other cities and states, and I myself am building a new home/studio in Loveland, where it is much more affordable to do so. I love Denver, but I can’t afford to build a new studio here, and that is a sad fact for many artists.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Just one? I have so many. I greatly admire sculptors Kevin Robb, Craig Robb and Madeline Weiner. They are all masters in the sculpture community. Ceramists Bebe Alexander, Gayla Lemke and Michael Keene are also very innovative and wonderful sculptors in clay. Collin Parson is doing some very interesting, cutting-edge work with light and space, as well as curating significant art exhibitions at the Arvada Center. If I absolutely have to pick a favorite, then Marie EvB Gibbons is it! Marie and I have known each other for over 25 years. We’ve run a co-op gallery together, been in shows together and have shared the artist journey through several ups and downs. I absolutely love the way her mind works. She creates from the heart, and her pieces are so meaningful and surreal. I love that. I collect her work whenever I can. She recently left her 44th and Tennyson arts location due to climbing rents (yet another example of how artists transform a neighborhood and then are forced out due to the rising cost of doing business there). I am happy to say that she has relocated to a more spacious studio off of 38th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
During the year ahead, I will be busy building a new studio and home with my husband, Jeff. We are building an ICF (insulated concrete form) house with the goal of building a net-zero home/studio that uses solar energy to offset most, if not all, of our power usage. During the big build, I plan to create as much work as possible in my temporary studio in Wheat Ridge.
I am currently working on a video-based installation that is a cheeky look at our worship of technology. Since I am creating the entire piece using technology, I am definitely poking fun at myself as well. The working title is “The Chapel of the Holy Motherboard.” Another goal for this year is to continue exploring ways to incorporate video into traditional sculpture mediums, perhaps creating a large installation using projections and sculpted objects in ceramic, while exploring new ways to use sound elements.
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Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
One of my former students, Anna Charney, is breaking into the art scene here in Denver, and she deserves every mention. She is talented, dedicated, hardworking and already has a definitive style for someone so young. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of Anna and her work this year.
Learn more about Kendra Fleischman online.