Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives 4.0: Aaron Mulligan and Lucía Rodríguez

Aaron Mulligan and Lucía Rodríguez operate Juicebox Gallery in RiNo.
Aaron Mulligan and Lucía Rodríguez operate Juicebox Gallery in RiNo. Susan Froyd
#25: Aaron Mulligan and Lucía Rodríguez

Aaron Mulligan grew up in Colorado Springs, while Lucía Rodríguez hails from Santiago, Chile. They met as MFA candidates at the New York Academy of Art, a school known for its emphasis on classical technique and theory. Now a married couple living in Denver, the partners wanted to find a space where they could mount art exhibits and make their own work while sharing the fundamentals of making art, hosting talks and building the kind of community Rodríguez had found in Santiago while working there as an illustrator. One successful Kickstarter later, they opened JuiceBox, an art gallery, studio and educational space in RiNo, all on a shoestring and a sense of commitment toward creating a scene they could call their own. Sometime down the line, they’d also like to host artist residencies in the space. How’s all of that going, now that the space is up and running? Mulligan and Rodríguez chose to answer that question and the rest of the 100CC questionnaire in the most down-to-earth way they could think of — in conversation, verbatim — ums, pauses, disjointed sentences and all. That’s what being creative is all about. Read on and join the dialogue.

: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Lucía Rodríguez: I don’t want to talk about it…well…I could say color is my muse.
Aaron Mulligan: My wife is my muse.
L: Ayyyy, now I need to say you’re my muse! But I don’t want people to know that so…yes, you are my muse but —
A: shhhhhhh
L: I want people to know that light is my muse.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?

A: Can we consider this a party that we are both throwing? We are throwing it at JuiceBox?
L: So we’re gonna choose three people?
A: And we’re gonna invite three people, dead or alive.
L: I would like to invite Catherine Murphy.
A: She seems nice.
L: I like the interview that I read of her once, and she seemed like a person very nice to talk to.
A: Yeah.
L: Who would you like to invite?
A: Well, what kind of party are we throwing here?
L: Yeah, it depends.
A: Are we throwing a rager? Or are we doing like…
L: No, I’m thinking about a party where we can sit and talk.
A: Yeah, I like those kinds of parties more nowadays. I’m like an old man. So I want to have, like…talky kinds of guests. Not ragey.
L: I mean ’cause if it’s ragey, I don’t care who comes. You just want a crowd.
A: I mean, you want to get somebody who's gonna lose their shit. And, you know, do a spectacle.
L: Yes.
A: Hmm…I guess if it’s just to talk and for good vibes and we’re thinking in terms of artists…which we don’t have to…
L: No.
A: Etel Adnan comes to mind as a response to what you just said.
L: We’re gonna have a whole bunch of old l…people.
A: Were you gonna say, “old ladies?”
L: Yes.
A: I like old ladies. My grandma’s an old lady, and I love her.
L: We can also invite your grandma!
A: Let’s go and…(hand clap)…we’re gonna invite my grandma!
L: Yes. Your grandma, Etal Adnan, and Katherine Murphy.
A: Yes. Okay.

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

A: The best thing about your local creative community…in your field?
L: Well, I feel like I’m just, like, starting to get to know it, so it’s kind of hard to criticize. You know?
A: Are you leaving it to me to criticize?
L: No, I would say that for me, at least, the best part, I think, that it’s…uhhh…in a moment of growth. You know? And there’s a lot of…like…a lot of people doing good work.
A: Could we say that’s also the worst part?
L: But the worst part is the uncertainty. Because of the growth.
A: Yeah. What’s good about it is what is also what is bad. It’s a double-edged sword.
L: It’s a double-edged sword.
A: That is a very safe response to that question.
L: Well, yeah. I’d say the worst is the uncertainty. Not knowing how committed people are, really, to…like…develop things. If people are gonna stay here or if they want to leave. You know?
A: If your efforts are just gonna be a waste.
L: Yeah.
A: But I personally don’t think it’s a waste. But I get, like…I mean, there’s…y-you do dedicate yourself to things in a certain way and, ah, put a lot on the line...
L: Mhmm.
A: And…I guess, yeah, that uncertainty if it’s…and I don’t mean “play out,” like you’re gonna get money or something like that. I mean…are people gonna reciprocate?
L: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. The level of…
A: Do we have the fan on in the kitchen?
L: We don’t need to because we don’t have…
A: True…
L: Um, yeah, I’d say it’s just that. You don’t know how committed people would be.
A: True.
L: You know? I don’t know. Yeah.

click to enlarge Juicebox, from the street. - COURTESY OF JUICEBOX GALLERY
Juicebox, from the street.
Courtesy of Juicebox Gallery
How about globally?

A: I feel like I’m just such a little person. How can I say anything about what’s the…
L: No, but what you feel.
A: What I feel?
L: I feel that in my experience, my personal experience, I feel like the best part is that now we have a lot of access to see what people are doing.
A: Oh, yeah. Like, all over the world.
L: Yeah. So it’s, like, a never-ending source of inspiration. You could really find people who are doing a bunch of different things, and I think that’s kind of awesome.
A: Mhmm.
L: Ahhh…but also I feel that sometimes we…as, like…more globally, we are losing our goals.
A: Would you say that’s also a double-edged sword? Like, the fact that it is so easy to get access to what’s going on in the world really kind of…
L: Sometimes we forget why we are doing the things that we are doing.
A: Yeah. And I think it also causes us to lose contact with the material aspect of what we do.
L: Totally. Yeah. I’d say those are important, too.
A: Okay.

Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?

A: You know… okay. I’ve been thinking about this one. ’Cause I remember I was looking over this, and I thought about this.
L: Mhmmm.
A: And I don’t want to say what I hate. Because…uhh…I think that trends arise out of…kind of a…you know, it’s kind of, like, a cultural practice.
L: Yeah.
A: And even if I don’t like that thing…
L: Mhmm.
A: Ummmm…I feel like nowadays we should be respectful enough to not try to knock.
L: There’s a need behind it.
A: Yeah. Even if I don’t agree with it.
L: Yeah.
A: So I’d rather…all right. I’d rather transform this into what I think is worth following. Focus solely on that, and maybe it would be easy to interpret what I am not for. You know…by inverting what I’m for. How does that sound?
L: Okay.
A: I thought about this.
L: Okay.
A: I want…I am for…an art practice, a trend that encourages the freedom to make mistakes.
L: I like that.
A: That enables artists to make mistakes and, uh, rewards risk-taking. And, um (lip smack), emphasizes that this is a practice. Not a, umm…
L: And failing is part of it.
A: Failing is part of it. Try…explore a new idea and maybe arriving at a dead end. And…um…a-a practice that is as intuitive as it is intelligent.
L: Mhmm.
A: Umm… almost like something that someone writes in their diary. Does that make sense?
L: Yeah, I understand. The thing is that I’m a little confused because when somebody says that something becomes a trend, it kinda loses the purpose why it was originated.
A: Oh — you think that by the time it’s a trend people are just imitating?
L: Yeah.
A: Huh.
L: Kinda just the surface of it.
A: So you would be against every trend.
L: Yeah. I am. But maybe I’m being too negative. But I just…I don’t care about any trend, honestly. I care about more like the sincere effort of anything.
A: Would you like to say there is a trend you are against?
L: (silently) The trend of trends?
A: The trend of trends. That sounds good to me.

What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?

A: Man. That’s a hard question to answer at this point in my life.
L: For me, too. I would just say that, um, an accomplishment that I aim to, you know, that would be my favorite, is just freedom…
A: I like that.
L: …in my practice.
A: How ’bout this? I feel like I became free…
L: Mhmm.
A: …when I let go of…certain assumptions about who I am, and what that means. And I allowed myself to be more fluid. You know…in my practice.
L: Yes.
A: I feel like that was the ultimate accomplishment, and even though ever since that thing happened I’ve been in circumstances that have made it impossible to accomplish much…I feel like the kind of person I've become and the kind of artist I know I am now, even if I can’t display it. I feel empowered in a way that I didn’t feel before.
L: Yeah.
A: And I’m proud of that accomplishment. The day that I finally cut that — those expectations — out of my life.
L: Well, when you do that you become a real artist, honestly.
A: So you're proud of when you did tha,t too?
L: Yeah…I think that I’m in the process of doing it.
A: Yeah? I think we’re in the same place.
L: Because that way you can choose your own limitations.
A: Yeah. Yeah. Cool.

You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?

A: A shit-ton of things.
L: Yeah. Life.
A: Life. Uhh…I mean it’s so hard to, to say, what…
L: I think that life is kinda a never-ending process of discovering new things so…how could I know what’s on my bucket list?
A: Maybe we shouldn’t be too, like, thoughtful about this.
L: Okay.
A: Is there something you want to do before you die?
A: Go to Italy.
L: Yeah…um, show more. Have work to show. I would like to. Um…yeah…uh, travel more. See more art. Uh, I have a whole bunch of art that I would like to see.
A: I think that there is a possibility that I would like for us to have a kid.
L: Yes.
A: We’re just talkin’ about life kind of things.
L: Yes. That’s life. Yeah. Have a kid…at least. Maybe. Have a pet.
A: Maybe have a pet before we have a kid?
L: They’re not at the same level. Ummmm…
A: I don’t think that we could afford either of them right now.
L: No. I don’t know…more projects. I would like to try more variety of things.
A: I’m pretty happy with my life.
L: Well…
A: I mean, I would like to travel more.
L: Yeah…I think it’s something that I could, like…I just can’t see the things that I want very much right now. But I would like to travel more.
A: I do want to…all right, all right (hand clap). Umm…I said that I wanted to maybe open a museum.
L: Mhmm. Yeah, you have that.
A: But…that’s like…very far-fetched. And maybe just thinking about what that museum would be is more the point than actually opening it.
L: Yeah…yeah. Sometimes I feel like that. I’ve been feeling that, um, I would like to make a movie.
A: Yeah?
L: I don’t know if I would actually like to make a movie, but I like to think about it.
A: Wha-wha-what would it be? Is it a comedy?
L: No. It’s kinda like…I don’t know. It’s gonna be a boring movie.
A: I want to make some boring movies, too…
L: I-I…
A: …but not in an ironic way.
L: No. In a sincere way.
A: Yeah.
L: Just like, life. You know?
A: Yeah. But also not in an indie-flick way that’s kinda sad.
L: Nothing too spectacular. I don’t know. But I like to think about it.
A: Pretty like a…like the drapery of a window looks like blowing in the…wind.
L: Yeah. Mhmm.
A: That kinda thing?
L: Yes. Like walking on the street. Just walking. Listening to music, maybe.
A: Yeah. Cool…well you could do that! Let’s start it.
L: Maybe. I don’t know. It’s just an idea I’ve been having lately, but I don’t think about the steps that I need to accomplish it. Maybe…who knows? In the future.
A: Okay.
L: I never thought…I never thought it would happen, a lot of the things in my life. So…who knows? Maybe I’ll end up making a movie.
A: All right. But we are going to go to Italy.
L: Oh, yeah.
A: Wait, wait, wait, but no, no, no. The next one is, uhh…
L: What? Amsterdam?
A: Amsterdam.
L: Well…we can do…that’s not that far away.
A: And I know that you resist it because you think that all the cool kids are doing it now, but I really want to go to Japan.
L: Oh, yeah…I want to! But I, I…it’s just (scoff) I don’t want to post about it. I want to just go.
A: I don’t want to post about it, either! I just want to go, too! We can make a boring movie while we’re there, and that will be how people know that we went.
L: I want to travel. A lot.
A: Yeah, me, too.

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

A: This is a loaded question for Lucia.
L: I don’t wanna answer this question.
A: You don’t wanna answer this question? Lucía’s new. We need to clarify that. And she’s not sure if she loves it… (nervous laughter)
A: You want me to…you want me to just go? You want me to elaborate why it is an ambiguous relationship.
L: Off the record, I don’t want people to hate me. So I’m not…
A: That’s true. This is a hard question because people might just be mad at you if you offer even valid criticism. So okay…people can hate me. Okay? It’s…there’s a lot to love and a lot to hate right now. And…the thing is that, uhh…there might be that kinda, like, uhh…water is invisible to fish kind of thing going on here. Uhh…I hate the car culture. I loathe it. It’s disgusting, actually. They don’t…there’s no sense of integrity for pedestrians. It is actually disgusting. I think that the way that pedestrians are treated in this city is a shame. And car culture here is so rampant that it really is destructive for the culture, and I think that any questions about what’s wrong with Denver could always circulate back to how the city is designed to belittle pedestrians and give so much power to individuals behind a steering wheel. And that is destructive for culture. And so I hate that. I don’t, I don’t want to mince words about that one. I think it’s disgusting. And I think that, uh, I don’t want to hear any statement that anyone has about how to “fix” Denver until they acknowledge that. That’s the root of the problem. There’s other problems here, but that, to me, is the heart of the matter here.
L: But we can go more to the…like…what keeps you here…
A: But that’s a leave it kind of thing, you know? That’s a, like…
L: That would make you leave, then?
A: Well, yeah! I grew up in Colorado Springs, where it’s even worse…but when I was in New York — and I’ve tried not to compare Denver to New York, um, ever since I got back because I think that’s pretentious — so, ah, how about this? It’s not just New York. It’s a lot of East Coast cities. Because we visited a couple when we were out there. The…uh, the fact that the cities are older meant that they were designed before car culture became a big deal, and the thing is there’s, like, options. You have options. It’s so much easier, and it’s so much more common for people to use public transportation. I miss feeling like I…
L: They’re actually easier to visit. Denver is a very hard city to visit.
A: Super-hard to visit! It’s super-hard to visit. And it’s uhh…I don’t know. The way that I live my daily life makes me feel like I’m fighting every single day just to get to my job. And that sucks. So that would be a reason why I would leave it.
L: Mhmm.
A: But love it because the sunsets are glorious. They’re glorious. And there’s a lot of potential here. It’s still open. Umm, there’s a lot that hasn’t been locked in. Um. You know, Manhattan is full. Every square inch of that place has something built on top of it. And uh…Denver is still developing and within that…you know…within that development, there is potential. Potential to get better or to get worse. But there is potential, and potential is always exciting for me. So that’s a reason to love it. How ’bout that?
L: Sounds good.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

A: The thing is that we’ve met a lot of cool people. I don’t know how to compare them.
L: I never like to go with favorites. It doesn’t make sense to me. I like different people for different reasons.
A: That’s true.
L: I sound like a bitch in this whole interview.
A: You don’t sound like a bitch.
L: I don’t want to…um….it doesn’t make sense to me to choose one favorite.
A: Yeah. Me neither. I like…I mean, we’ve been meeting a lot of people, and I like them all. For different reasons.
L: I like, um, Stephanie Kantor’s work. I think she’s great. I like…uh…what’s his name…Ian Fisher. He’s the one who paints the clouds.
A: Oh, yeah.
L: I love his work. I haven’t met him, but I think he makes gorgeous work. It feels very sincere to me.
A: Yeah,
L: *sigh*...
A: Yeah…
L: I…
A: In the arts, it’s like picking your favorite flavor of ice cream. That’s something that only little kids do.
L: I’ve never had favorites. The only time I had a favorite was my favorite cartoon was Sailor Moon
A: The thing is, like, when I was…when I was…
L: Why would you go with just one?
A: Yeah! When you’re a kid you do that, too. You pick amongst your friends, like “my favorite friend,” my “favorite,” like, the best. And then at some point in time you realize that everything is so distinct from one another. I enjoy them all for different reasons.
L: I never even do that with my friends….
A: I did that.
L: I never had a best friend.
A: I did that.
L: Well…
A: And it didn’t get me very far. So maybe that’s the reason I am resisting this question. I like a lot of the people that we’ve met. I like Stephanie Kantor, as well.
L: I think in general there’s a group of people doing a whole bunch of stuff very professionally. That’s very enjoyable. I like this, um, I don’t know what’s her name, but this artist that we saw the other day at Gildar. She’s Denver-based.
A: Oh, uhh…her last name is Sink.
L: Something like that. Yeah. I like what she’s doing, you know?
A: Mhmm.
L: I wouldn’t go with a favorite…honestly.

What’s on your agenda in the coming year?

L: A lot of stuff. JuiceBox. Shows and, uh, classes, and, uh, growing and trying to bring people in and build our identity. And I think, personally, as more, like, as artists, um…building our work. As part of JuiceBox, we have a plan of a show in Chile coming up, too.
A: Oh, yeah.
L: So many things.
A: Well I’m working on the thing with (omitted)…. But in a way, it’s almost like that’s so much a baby right now, I don’t even know if it’s going to happen.
L: You can just say that we have a lot of projects.
A: We could mention it. I think that would be cool.
L: I just think it’s always tricky to give details about something that you don’t know if it’s going to happen.
A: Yeah? Okay.
L: I don’t like doing it.
A: True. True, true, true. Well, you know…movie night.
L: Movie nights, workshops, shows, studio visits — all these things. And at the same time, both of us developing our own artwork.
A: Ah, yeah. I mean…
L: A lot of things to balance.
A: I have been coming up with so many ideas in my sketch book, and I’ve been so, like, I’ve been so swamped with responsibilities for the past year that, to me, just reigniting my studio practice is a huge goal. And to find a way to do that in the midst of still taking care of my responsibilities, because I like taking care of them.
L: Like JuiceBox…
A: Well that’s, that’s a responsibility. I like being a good husband to you — that’s a responsibility of mine. I’ve been trying to be a better son, and I want to keep doing that, but in the midst of all that, I also want to bring my studio practice back.
L: Yeah.
A: That’s — I think, that’s fair.

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

A: Aaaaaaaahhhhh…
L: JuiceBox.
A: JuiceBox?
L: I’m gonna use this space for self-promotion.
A: Yes, let’s self-promote JuiceBox. I think it’s gonna be the greatest thing ever.
L: We have good intentions, and we want to really get this place…
A: We can’t use this for self-promotion.
L: Why not!?
A: The thing is, I think it’s an odd place to…
L: I don’t want to talk crap about people…pick and choose…
A: Get noticed?
L: You know? Like…
A: Honestly, I don’t think anyone should be caring too much about getting noticed.
L: I mean, I think that people who should get noticed are people who are working hard and who care about the practice…
A: You know what I think it is? (Hand clap)
L: But, uh…
A: Here’s what I want to say. You recently shared something with me about, um, that concept that Brian, Brian Eno talked about in an interview. Uh, what was the name of that concept?
L: Sce-scenic or something like that? I think there was a “scene,” uh…
A: Well, basically it was about how, to him, having one individual stand out doesn’t make sense. That it’s the scene that, uh, makes for any successful individual in the first place. And that maybe we should start orienting ourselves to that reality instead of, like, holding individuals up and worshipping them.
L: Maybe what should get noticed is all the possibilities that we have, and all the chances that we have to work together, um, to make, to grow all together at the same time.
A: And since Denver, we’ve been talking about everything that makes Denver so fresh and so open and full of potential — since it isn’t, like, a major art scene, like some cities in the world, we have the freedom to orient ourselves to this new reality that individuals shouldn’t be…the lifting up of an individual shouldn’t be the ambition here. The scene…
L: To build, like, a very…fertile?
A: Fertile community.
L: …community. Yeah. Very collaborative. And with real connections.
A: And if we manage to do that, then the whole community deserves to get noticed.
L: I don’t want to be like…
A: But only insofar as you participate genuinely. You know?
L: Yeah. It sounds like, you know, like we don’t want to get confrontational, but it’s like in a way…
A: But I’m confrontational against that concept.
L: I don’t want to… Yes! Well…
A: I don’t want any one individual to, to “rise above the rest.”
L: Me, neither.
A: And I don’t know what it would entail to be worthy of that treatment. I...I usually think that most artists who do kind of…
L: But that’s kind of transitional. You know? It’s like…
A: It always is.
L: Whoever’s noticed one year, is like, maybe next year there’s gonna be another one, and nobody is going to remember this one. I think it’s more important if the community is fertile. Those people are going to be able to keep their careers going on even if they’re not, like, in the…
A: In the spotlight.
L: In the spotlight. You know?
A: I’m looking more for, like, a Black Mountain College community kind of approach than, um…
L: Than, like, a rock star.
A: I’m totally done with the rock star. I used to want to be the rock star. That’s the reason why I…I explored that concept, and I am kind of sick of it. It’s really, just…that’s how you end up with a president like what we got.
L: It’s kind of unreal. It’s unreal. You know?
A: Yeah…. So. I think that’s a fair answer.

JuiceBox Gallery’s next art exhibit, A Harder Space, opens with a reception on Friday, June 8, at 6 p.m. Mulligan and Rodríguez are keeping mum on the nature of the show for now. Find JuiceBox Gallery at 3006A Larimer Street in RiNo. Learn more about Mulligan, Rodríguez and JuiceBox online at the gallery website and/or on Instagram and Twitter.
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