100 Colorado Creatives: Penney Bidwell
Penney Bidwell, "Boat Ride with a Wolf."
#14: Penney Bidwell
The work of ceramic artist Penney Bidwell has gained a high level of sophistication in a very short time. After earning a masters degree in psychology, Bidwell turned to clay less than ten years ago, and made immediate strides. Her art, especially her busts, melds whimsicality with something deeper and darker and more personal, a combination that worked especially well in recent years as she mined her own family's carnival roots in a moving series of circus-themed exhibitions. Where else does she find inspiration? Find out more about Bidwell in her 100CC questionnaire, which follows.
Photo of Penney Bidwell, by John Davenport.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
I can think of hundreds of artists in history with whom I would love to work. However, I think the most interesting collaborations happen when you take different disciplines and combine those together. I have always been fascinated with Carl Jung. My graduate work was in psychology, and I use a lot of dream imagery to explore the subconscious in my work. I would love to delve further into dreams and archetypes with Jung, and create sculpture based upon those.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Banksy! I love his satire and dark humor. His graffiti has shown up on walls all over the world. I watched his documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop, with my children. It enabled us to have several conversations about what is considered art, political activism and personal values. Our family has continued to follow him, and we especially enjoyed his antics in New York.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I feel completely frustrated with what is happening to the arts in the public-school system. Not only is funding down, but from what I can see, the arts are not valued on the administrative level. When pay, accountability and school ratings are all measured by test scores, creativity in all forms suffers. Art teachers are pressured to include writing and testing into their curriculum. There seems to be a lot less time available for hands-on art activities.
Penney Bidwell, "Rose."
What's your day job?
I've been lucky enough to stay at home and care for my children. Now that my children are older, I have been able to carve out part-time hours to do my art. Even so, there just is never enough time. The making of the art is only part of the job. Managing galleries, applying to shows/galleries, marketing and accounting/bookkeeping are all necessary parts of the business that I would just rather not do.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Assuming there are no strings attached and assuming that this patron would want me to use the funds for art-related ventures, I would relocate my family for a year or more to some foreign country. We would go somewhere where I could focus on my artwork while being stimulated by lots of art and learning new techniques. Last year, we traveled to China, which was inspiring; they are doing some exciting ceramic work there. I might pick Italy or India or some country that has an interesting culture and strong tradition of art.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I think Denver has a lot to offer. It would be great to get more national recognition. I'd love for the city to be known for its thriving art community. Related, Denver needs more people to communicate and promote individual artists to the community. We have lost several of the art critics. Projects, like this blog, help connect the public with individual artists.
Penney Bidwell, "King."
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
This is such a hard question to answer because we have so many talented artists in all kinds of mediums. However, one artist continues to fascinate me: Marie Gibbons. Marie is not only a fabulous artist, she is also an amazing businesswoman. Marie is a self-taught artist who puts so much into her own work and gives so much to others. I took some private lessons with her years ago, and I can tell you she is so full of ideas and gives 110 percent to her students. She is a clever business woman who continues to create amazing classes and creative ways to fund her business, such as her First Friday minishops.
Penney Bidwell, "Ship of Fools."
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This is shaping up to be a busy year for me. Right now I have a piece in the Colorado Clay exhibit at Foothills Art Center in Golden. I am proud to be a part of that show. There is some amazing talent in Colorado and, in particular, in the field of ceramics. Also, a piece of mine is featured in the Lark Books 500 Figures in Clay, volume 2, which just came out in print. I've been invited to exhibit at SOFA (Sculptural Objects Functional Art) in Chicago this November. I am excited about that show, but am still deciding whether it will fit in my schedule for this year. I am working on a large commission project for a twelve-by-twelve-foot wall space in LoDo. Lastly, I have two new galleries that I am considering working with on the East Coast. One is in New York City, and the other is in Bar Harbor, Maine. I'd love to find some time to experiment with new techniques and glaze recipes.
Penney Bidwell, "Mother."
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?
I hope the Art Students League of Denver gets more publicity. I think Rachel Basye is doing amazing things there. The league has been exhibiting in larger gallery spaces and collaborating with other art forms. For example, their new "Eat, Watch, Paint" series is so cool. First, you eat at a local restaurant, see a play and then take a painting workshop, where you respond to the play visually. Rachel is pushing the boundaries of what is considered fine art and has even brought some jewelry-making classes to the league. Additionally, Shelly Schreiber has done some remarkable things at the Art Students League ceramics department. She spearheaded the campaign to get a gas kiln and has lined up some amazing workshops. Denver is very lucky to have an institution like the Art Students League.
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.
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