#99: Donald Fodness At first glance, the works of Donald Fodness -- which range from intricate drawings to full-blown assemblages, installations and performance pieces -- might seem like chaos personified, filled with a million unrelated things that make your mind go a little crazy, if in a good way. But in reality, every piece Fodness finishes is a well-conceived schematic of interlaced relationships between shapes and thoughts, one thing leading into another. They are funny, strange, mind-blowing and utterly original; we like to think of the artist as kind of a Bill Amundson on LSD.
Over the last few years, Fodness's work has been seen at the University of Colorado, where he completed his MFA; the Denver Art Museum; the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art; the 2010 Biennial of the Americas and numerous galleries. Now In the middle of a studio residency at RedLine, Fodness also teaches at the University of Denver.
And tonight Vertigo Art Space will host a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. for The Blob-(ish), a group exhibition that Fodness curated, inspired by the trend in art "toward unfolding process, or indeterminable form."
The show is no small echo of his own amorphous directions, which will turn up later in the year in exhibitions both public and private, including Fodness's first solo show at Plus Gallery this summer. It "should have a range of works from drawings and paintings to sculpture and an outdoor work, and I may make a sound or video piece for that as well," Fodness says, with an obvious fervor for the challenge of a major gallery show.
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"At this point it is early in the year and not everything has come through yet, but I am starting to think about what I want to do for the Redline resident artist show in the fall," Fodness adds. "One thing I like about this opportunity is having so much time to think ahead, especially when making larger work." Considering how interlaced his best works are with thought conduits and pulsing life, that's something we can all look forward to.
Since Fodness is such a forward-thinker, we asked him to answer a few questions about the arts in 2013.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Donald Fodness: Ed and Nancy Kienholz. Their installations are still very powerful and have influenced my own aesthetic. Direct involvement in their process would provide insight and I am curious about the environments we could conjure. I see a lot of art historical trajectory passed from other artists of that era and the Kienholz lineage of narrative installation is relatively untapped.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I guess right now I am interested in two organizations of people. Often with collective minds and collaboration more human potential is realized. The groups I am interested in is NASA and Anonymous. The hactivist group Anonymous as they fight for social justice is a reassuring uprising. I am also really amazed at what NASA is doing on Mars and checking in on that progress is really fun.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I will flip this in a way that implies my answer by focusing on the inverse. I want to see an emergent trend in works that impress; perhaps in skill, scale, innovation, vision, or a range of other possibilities. I want to see art that really impacts me, asks me to investigate closely, spend time with it, and sticks with me. There is no formula to what I find impressive. I can be impressed by simple gestures, ephemeral works or even the raw. It could be minimal and well considered, rough and highly intense, an entire portfolio, or a specific moment within a single piece.
I teach Sculpture and Foundations at the University of Denver for Sarah Gjertson and Susan Meyer.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I fantasize about building an earthship in the mountains and living self-sufficient off the grid raising my own food. I would still make all kinds of large scale projects and continue my drawing practice but I would also build weird things like sculpture gardens, furniture and Mad-Max style wood pellet cars. I would still like to teach on occasion and make sure to travel often to study classic works of art as well as stay current with a range of contemporary visual cultures.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I have found there is a lot of support for the arts in Denver. It is easy to get involved and have your work validated here. The artists here lift each other up rather than step on each other, which I think is really great. The galleries and institutions offer a lot of service and support as well. Of course we could always spend more money supporting the arts even on small levels. That is one reason I like the CSA (Community Supported Arts) program that BMoCA and the Denver Botanic Gardens are fostering.
What I think would most help Denver right now is to create physical links to other cities that have similar confines. The internet has allowed for the quick dissemination of ideas, and images, as well as to easily form connections. Often times those connections cannot compare to face-to-face interactions and there is no substitute for experiencing art in person versus on the screen (unless it was intended for that format). The spacial distance between culture centers here in the West is both desirable and challenging. I have lived in, or spent significant time in, various locations in the Midwest and West and know that other cities in this region feel the same constraints. It would behoove these cities, or exhibition opportunities in these cities, to create lasting partnerships that exchange artistic voices more regularly.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
This is almost like asking who is my favorite family member. I have so many favorite visual artists in Colorado. All people who I feel close and connected to as friends and value as creatives. Many of my favorite artists are respected and recognized in the community already. So rather than single out one overall favorite visual artist, I will mention a musician: Matthew Hunzeker. He performs Folk Noir as a one man band with instruments he pieces together using various cultural detritus. These instruments recall the bedpan guitar or cookie tin banjo but he also incorporate electronic parts and found digital samples. In addition to his music I am really inspired by his hermetic lifestyle. He lives off the grid in a small rural studio collecting water and living in rhythm with the sun. It reminds me of when I used to have a converted chicken coop as a studio and live in my van.
Throughout the year, we'll be turning the spotlight on 100 superstars in Denver's rich artistic community. Watch for the next installment on Show and Tell -- and go to the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
Who rocks YOUR world locally? Do you have a suggestion for a Colorado Creative? Leave it in the comments section below.