#59: Pangloss Gravitron Pangloss Gravitron: Not a person. Rather, it's a diverse six-person collective of local artists who share a certain speculative, surreal and fantasmic scope in their works. "Pangloss" references Voltaire's optimist Dr. Pangloss from Candide; "Gravitron" is a spinning, flying-saucer-like amusement park ride using centrifugal force to elicit thrills.
Bound by the joy of art-making, the group's members -- a changing body of painters, sculptors, metal-workers and installation-builders that currently includes Tracy Tomko, Meagen Svendsen, Mark Penner-Howell, Patrick Loehr, John Haley III and Erin Asmussen -- like to collaborate on a theme when they get together for a joint show.
Their second exhibition as a collective, Corpus Exuberis, opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, at the Emmanuel Gallery, and continues through August 29. To prep you for that show, we invited the artists to answer our 100CC questionnaire as a group. Read on for a closer look at the great Gestalt creature that is Pangloss Gravitron.
Westword: Who and what is Pangloss Gravitron?
Tracy Tomko: Pangloss Gravitron thinks the whole is greater than its parts. "Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno." We are Musketeers in art.
Meagen Svendsen: A group of conceptual artists, equal parts serious and silly, bound by the centrifugal force that is Tracy Tomko.
Patrick Loehr: This sounds familiar, but I can't say with 100 percent certainty that I have the correct answer.
John Haley III: Francis Picabia, 391.
Erin Asmussen: Pangloss Gravitron is a carnival ride that hits optimistic highs and sets back down into reality on a regular creative basis. For me, it is a group of artists that I am excited to show next to and feel that I belong with.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Tracy: Eiko Ishioka, Julie Taymor, Kiki Smith and Leonora Carrington for their use of animals with the human figure and for theatrical expressions of emotions.
Meagen: A cognitive ornithologist (I might have just made that title up), a soundscape ecologist, a mockingbird or a dragonfly. Each could teach me to experience the world in ways I can't perceive.
Patrick: I would like to collaborate with Jesus of Nazareth because of his visionary outlook, supernatural abilities and strong carpentry skills. I feel these attributes would result in some interesting work. Or, maybe I would choose the Lord of Darkness for similar reasons. In this scenario, am I allowed to withdraw myself from the equation, and let Jesus and the Lord of Darkness collaborate on this project? Please get back to me ASAP.
John: Probably Charles de Gaulle, because he was so crafty.
Erin: I would collaborate with Tim Burton. I wanted to work with him before I understood what an artist was. Seeing his work always made me wish to be a part of the world he was composing.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Tracy: Curators and gallerists as orchestrators of exhibitions of art, who purposefully lead the viewer through an experience, with regard to space, light, sound and tactile environments.
Meagen: Bernie Krause (The Great Animal Orchestra), Barbara Natterson-Horowitz & Kathryn Bowers (Zoobiquity), Oliver Sachs (Musicophilia) and Temple Grandin (The Autistic Brain). They all explore distinct means by which to view the connection between humanity and nature.
Mark: Those protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo, who routed army helicopters this week by overwhelming them with the light from hundreds of cheap laser pointers -- the kind we only use at rock concerts and to make our cats jump around the room.
Patrick: The young woman who made my Subway sandwich in Burlington, Colorado, several weeks ago is very interesting to me, thank you. I'm fairly certain she was some type of elf. The colleague I was dining with had similar suspicions, so this isn't a fluke. I think her name was Natalie.
John: People, because they interest me.
Erin: I am interested in Shirley MacLaine. I am impressed with her ability to use her talents to guide her life. I also really like how open-minded she is and the way she lives so freely.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Tracy: I wish that there weren't trends in art. It means that certain expressions of ideas are in style, while experimentation isn't so readily accepted. Would it really be mayhem if we opened our minds to new things more often?
Meagen: This question makes me feel sad.
Mark: I can't say I'm a fan of art trends dying, because where there are trends, there is also passion and energy, even if it's misplaced. That said, I would like to see people stop copying stuff they see in Juxtapoz Magazine. If I see one more painting of a glassy-eyed, hyper-sexualized child with a meat cleaver, I'm just going to lose it.
Patrick: "Fun" art.
Erin: I would like to see an end to artists being paid too little for their work.
What's your day job?
Tracy: I'm a sculptor of playlands, for children.
Meagen: I have several, but I am most proud of my job as a mom.
Mark: I'm trying like crazy to be a painter full-time. When things are slow, I design websites and logos. When that's slow, I go on Facebook and pretend I'm networking.
Patrick: I'm a mystery patron who offers artists unlimited funds for life.
John: Artiste/blacksmith/wounded healer.
Erin: Artist/ Farmer
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Tracy: Curate an art show in space, and too many other practical things to list.
Meagen: Everything. Including trying to make the industrialized world a quieter place, so birds and frogs and whales can have the space to sing in again.
Mark: No, that would not be good at all. I'd plunge headfirst into all sorts of debauchery and spiritual ruination. Plus, I don't like the idea of a mystery patron. You'd be forever indebted to someone whose agenda was hidden. I don't like the politics of it. Besides, the gods of common sense know better than to trust me with this sort of fortune.
Patrick: This person sounds very unethical. I would threaten to give the funds back unless the person revealed his true identity.
John: Buy lotto tickets, delicious food and the new Boards of Canada CD.
Erin: I would build an art museum and art center that chooses talented artists from all walks of life to come for a residency that provides housing, art supplies and place to create art without inhibition.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Tracy: I'd enjoy seeing more exchange programs bringing artists from around the world, for extended stays, to work and exhibit here, and sending groups of Colorado artists abroad to do the same. State-funded residency exchange programs
Meagen: Give schoolchildren more time outdoors.
Mark: I think Denver is doing a great job of providing public art and arts programming. Occasionally, I get into vigorous discussions with fellow Denver artists who grouse about the city not doing more to support local talent, but I really can't see how that's the job of city government. I feel like it's up to us artists to try and make that happen. Any city that's ever become a truly vital art mecca has done so because of a groundswell of passion and curiosity and social coherence of its creative class, not because bureaucrats planned or funded it. If anything, I'd be happy to have more arts programming and funding directed at the public schools. Arts illiteracy is a generational problem that will take time to correct, but only if we as a community decide it's something we will fight to change.
Patrick: I would say tuck and roll, but that's two things. So my answer is salmon.
John: Make marijuana illegal.
Erin: I would like to see art collecting become more popular. I think the general public is missing out a little. I am an art collector, and it is one of the best parts of my life. I guess, as far as Denver fixing that, maybe a local publication that reaches more people who are not involved in the art scene and exposes them to the work that is available in Colorado would help.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Tracy: At the moment, I'm fascinated by the art of Josh Tobey, and the music of Amber Hamilton. I can't pick just one of anything.
Meagen: Every single creative soul I know.
Mark: Well, for a Colorado artist, this is a completely booby-trapped question. I have too many favorites that no one has ever heard of, and others it would be suicidal not to mention. So I'll do what any sane person would and say Peter Bouckaert -- Brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Co. Bouckaert is a fearless experimenter and a creative leader among Colorado brewmasters. He has literally reset the palates and expectations of both beer drinkers and brewing culture in Colorado.
Patrick: I think her name is Natalie. She makes sandwiches at the Subway in Burlington. Be careful if you approach her for comment, she may have unusual or special powers.
John: Thinking Plague.
Erin: At this moment, my favorite Colorado Creative is Bruce Price. I stumbled upon his show with no expectations. At first, I decided it was subdued. After a while, I noticed that there was an overwhelming amount of color everywhere. It seemed as though the work was controlling the patrons with color and geometry. The people at the show would hardly step foot into it, like it was too sacred, or something. I wanted to swim in it, hang out in it, and take it home with me. By the end of my experience, I decided that I wanted Bruce Price to be my uncle. Not a typical reaction for me; his show had some interesting art power.
What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
Tracy: We have a Pangloss Gravitron show at Emmanuel Gallery, on July 11 and running through August 29. After that, we will seek new adventures and spaces to present our next ideas.
Patrick: I have a dentist appointment on August 26 at 4 p.m. Otherwise I'm fairly available.
John: Art, travel and spending my unlimited funds for life.
Erin: Make art, and see where it takes me.
Who do you think will get noticed in the Denver art scene this year?
Tracy: The genre jumpers, like country music stars who win the hearts of rock fans.
Meagen: The kindhearted, contemplative ones, I hope.
Mark: Top of my list is Redline artist Laura Shill. I don't know her, I'm just a fan. Her "performed" photographs and elaborate installations/sets are deeply engaging and really fresh, and I love her commitment to craft. Her work makes me feel hopeful about the local scene.
Patrick: Whoever is in the right place at the right time
John: Anyone who reads this sentence, but doesn't think about it.
Erin: I think that it will be the artist whose turn it is.
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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