100 Colorado Creatives: Norman Broomhall and Jean Albus
Jean Albus, "Magpie," from Into the Within, Hinterland Art Space.
#73: Norman Broomhall and Jean Albus
Norman Broomhall raises chickens, sells vintage objects and mirrors antiqued by hand, plays the guitar and takes photographs; Jean Albus is a photographer, as well. Both are inspired by the call of nature and, together, they've created Into the Within, an installation that's been creating a buzz since it opened at Hinterland Art Space on April 12.
Altar detail, "Into the Within."
The heart of Into the Within -- which has something to do with magpie nests, secret places and a kind of spiritual naturalism -- is a walk through a thicket, realistically recreated by the artists inside Hinterland and lined with nests, hidden altars, images and bits of everyday flotsam and found objects. It is haunting, magical and supernatural -- and about to end its run at the RiNo gallery.
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But first, Broomhall and Albus will host a First Friday closing reception at Hinterland from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 3, offering a last chance to experience their symbolic woodland world. Visit Hinterland online for details.
Though Albus lives in Montana, she's shown work in local galleries and calls Denver "my big city -- only eight hours away." And because her participation in Into the Within is so necessary to its impact, we asked her to join Broomhall in tackling our 100CC quiz as a duo, because, well, because. Every now and then, an honorary Coloradan passes through our state.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Norman Broomhall: I would love to do a project with Andy Goldsworthy and John Cale. They both have my dream jobs. One works with nature as art. The other creates sounds both serene and intense. I love both of their styles and I think the aesthetic created would be superlative. Sight, sound, earth...Imagine the possibilities.
Jean Albus: Since I'm relatively new to the art of installation, I wouldn't mind working with the king of landscape installation, Christo. I've watched every documentary ever made about his and Jean Claude's work. I was fortunate to view The Gates in NYC. His concepts are huge; he never gives up. The experiences he creates are of such a vast scope. I'd love to be a part of that. But if he's not available, surely Andy Goldsworthy would be cool with a collaboration. I would be satisfied to sit quietly and watch, waiting for orders. He has incredible tenacity and a connection to nature that resonates with me. I'd love to absorb some of that.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
N.B.: For me, the internet itself is the most interesting and amazing thing. I am a naturally curious person and every day, I have access to the most powerful tool that has ever existed -- it is infinite knowledge. One minute it's, "What is the recipe for Swedish meatballs"? The next it's, "How do you play an Em7 chord on the guitar?" And the answers are all there. To be able to be exposed to new ideas, images and people from around the world, researching the "how to" of different media and the "why" of media, is invaluable to me as an artist. If knowledge is power, then we all have the ability and the capacity for more power than we realize.
J.A.: I was recently introduced to the work of William Lamson at the Robischon Gallery. I was blown away by his video work. Fortunately, a documentary of his piece Action ror the Delaware at the MCA was showing concurrently. I was riveted by the intensity of his process. I'm sometimes daunted by the physicality of my own work. I love his work in the landscape. It has a zen-like quality that combines humor with intelligence.
I also have to say Ai Wei Wei gets my attention time after time. His level of social consciousness overwhelms me. His creativity seems to know no bounds. I would like to count him as a friend.
Thirdly, I find the performance work of Marina Abramović both moving and brave. I'm so drawn to her performance art, its in-the-moment quality. I find her so completely true to herself -- a quality that, to me, is indispensable to creating great art.
I can't leave out El Anatsui. Dude really has it going on. His draped, fabric-like pieces made of bottle caps and other materials astound and mesmerize me.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
N.B.: Guys with beards, ironic glasses, fedoras and skinny jeans playing banjo.
J.A.: I have no complaints. Since trends come and go, I'm not concerned with them. I look at art constantly when I'm not slaving over my own stuff. I take what I need and leave the rest. I think something valuable results from trends, anyway. Just give me art that is deeply expressive and highly innovative. I dislike unemotional art, sloppiness, lack of attention to detail, boring work, mediocre work and one-punch art. However, I've been guilty enough on all counts, so I try to live and let live. Well, okay, I have a deep dislike of unintelligible, pseudo-intellectual artist statements and carved crayons.
What's your day job?
N.B.: I have two Etsy shops. In Found Here, I sell all kinds of cool vintage stuff, such as retro typewriters, blenders and other now-defunct machines -- with an eye toward the beauty of the machines; they are a kind of sculpture. The other Etsy shop, which is an entirely different direction from the first, is called Alchemy in Glass, and in which I create hand-silvered antiqued glass mirrors and jewelry. Until those things really take off, I am still open for offers...
J.A.: Fortunately, my day job is art work. God knows I've had a long list of day and night jobs in my lifetime, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Keeping my Marcel the Dog happy feels like a job sometimes. That dog has ridiculous energy.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
N.B.: I would buy a small, self-sufficient home and studio on at least twenty acres near Buena Vista, or maybe the San Luis Valley. There I would expand my work into bigger spaces and larger concepts. I would incorporate a larger variety of mediums and also focus on helping to save the natural world through educational and preservation efforts aimed at native ecology. And by that I mean buy up as much land as I could so that it would be protected from development, and use those places to educate young and old about sustainability, native ecologies and raw-earth gardening.
J.A.: I recently stumbled upon a photograph of Willem De Kooning in his studio. I salivated over it. So having a giant studio with the highest of high ceilings leaps to mind, one with great big doors. It would come fully equipped with lots of yes people, people who believe anything is possible, to help me so it wouldn't be so hard on my old body to do what I want to do. I would travel to view art in places around the world. I say this because I live in an isolated locale, culturally. It would be cool to have a place in Denver so I could hang out with like-minded souls for a month or more at a time. Who cares about New York? I would donate a lot of it to education. It would be great to to endow a healthy trust fund for an older, budding artist like myself. As long as I'm thinking about it, why not create some kind of colony where artists of any ilk could come to create without thinking about anything else? And I'd hire a cleaning lady.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
N.B.: An increase in both art education and appreciation in the schools at all levels is vital to both the quality and quantity of art in Denver. Or anywhere, for that matter.
J.A.: Since I am actually an honorary Colorado Creative who only visits Denver when I can, I don't know what the answer to that question could be. I find this community to be very generous toward the arts. The artists' community, especially in the RiNo district, has given me a warm welcome. I'm deeply appreciative. Denver is my nearby "big city."
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
N.B. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of very talented people so I could list a bunch. But right now I would go with Denver's RiNo district as a whole. RiNo has a lot of great artists, musicians, galleries, venues and creative energy.
J.A.: I'm a number one fan of Sabin Aell. She's a free thinker, she's a rolling freight train of enthusiasm; she's beautiful inside and out. She's an amazing artist in a variety of media. She never says never.
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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