100 Colorado Creatives: Nathan Abels
Nathan Abels, "Lumen Vitae," acrylic on canvas, 2013.
#19: Nathan Abels
Painter Nathan Abels, who moved here from Indiana in 2007, is best known for his ethereally subtle landscapes, which somehow commit to canvas the faintest changes in atmosphere and nanoseconds of time. It's difficult work that he makes look easy and natural. Part of Robischon Gallery's stable of artists and an art instructor at Arapahoe Community College, Abels similarly paints the 100CC questionnaire with a clear and straightforward voice.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Nathan Abels: I collaborated with musicians on my last body of work, and if I could collaborate with anyone it might be the composer Arvo Pärt. He balances spare arrangements and drama in a way I find very inspiring. If I could work with Vija Celmins on some paintings or drawing, I would love that as well.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Lately, I have been enjoying Edward Abbey's musings on the wilderness and books that offer insight into our nation's decline. I read Morris Berman's off-the-cuff blog called Dark Ages America fairly frequently. Berman recently wrote Why America Failed about moral and cultural bankruptcy in America -- it's well-researched and quite poignant. James Howard Kunstler has also been an interesting writer and thinker to me for years. Most people know him from his book The Geography of Nowhere. His latest book, Too Much Magic, critiques our cultural tendency to believe that technology will solve all our problems. As a bit of a Luddite myself, I connect with his point of view.
It's not all doom and gloom -- in visual art, I have been intrigued by so-called "provisional" painting and modest artworks by artists like Sergej Jensen, Raoul de Keyser and Helmut Federle.
Nathan Abels, "Reflection," oil on canvas, 2013.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I would like to see more works that are personal, humble, ego-less, human, hopeful, contemplative and spiritual... with less work that is ironic, sarcastic, defeatist, cast-off, pessimistic or apathetic.
What's your day job?
I work at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton teaching mostly drawing and painting. I paint as well, of course.
Nathan Abels, "Alive to Guess Again," acrylic on panel, 2011.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would like to know where the mysterious funds were coming from first -- but without that knowledge in this hypothetical situation, I would provide universal health care and education for everyone. Think of what could be accomplished in the arts if artists weren't worried about health insurance! On that note, let's put those funds toward freeing people from the tremendous burden of student loans. More personally, I would shift to working on my art full-time rather than balancing it with other jobs, if money (and health care) were no longer issues.
Nathan Abels, "Desert Sage."
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
It is the same story as any city -- funding for arts and artists could always be improved. Beyond financial support, communicating your appreciation and support of artists and art organizations is significant as well. This may take form as volunteering, donating (materials? skills?) or even just encouraging artists and recognizing their cultural contributions. It may not seem like much, but just letting an artist or gallery know that you appreciate what they do and are thankful for them can be really important.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There are so many exceptional creative people in Colorado. In the visual arts, I'm inspired by artists like Justin Beard, Joseph Coniff, Don Stinson, Steve Batura, Andrew Speer, Sarah McKenzie, Ian Fisher, Zach Reini, CT Nelson, Erin Asmussen, Tracy Tomko, Rebecca Peebles, Michael Chavez and Mark Howell, to name just a few. Matthew Sage in Fort Collins runs the small music label called Patient Sounds and makes great ambient/experimental compositions under the name "M. Sage." Since becoming familiar with his work and the label, he has become one of my favorite Colorado Creatives.
Nathan Abels, "Lemuria," acrylic on linen.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I will be making a new body of work and participating in the Direct Connect collaborative exhibition at Groundswell gallery in March.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?
I would say CT Nelson -- one of the hardest-working painters I know. His paintings are dynamic, complex and inventive.
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.
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