Anna Kaye, “Rock Bells,” watercolor on paper without borders.EXPAND
Anna Kaye, “Rock Bells,” watercolor on paper without borders.
Courtesy of Anna Kaye

100 Colorado Creatives 4.0: Anna Kaye

#55: Anna Kaye

A highly collected artist with an eye for hyperreal detail, Anna Kaye champions nature and the environment, both in and out of the studio. In the present, Kaye’s Pink Progression project, a series of exhibits commemorating and carrying on the spirit of worldwide women’s marches in 2017 and 2018, is set to roll out in the coming weeks, bringing together pink-hued works by dozens of Colorado artists in solidarity. Get inside Kaye’s enthusiasm for the natural and communal human worlds as she answers the 100CC questionnaire.

Creating an exquisite corpse drawing in watercolor for the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.EXPAND
Creating an exquisite corpse drawing in watercolor for the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
Courtesy of Anna Kaye

Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Anna Kaye: Conflict and survival are my creative muses. I am drawn to points in which calamity has occurred, such as a scorched forest, and when hope arises, as plants and animals re-inhabit the forest. This also involves remembering the forgotten, the burn, and revealing hidden, surviving species.

Perceiving life with heightened senses and empathy compels me to capture its inherent features, “imperfections,” and all. Every angle, tiny detail, value or hue are important parts of the whole. To me the sublime is both ugly and beautiful all at once.

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

Astronomer Carl Sagan changed humanity’s perspective when he suggested that Voyager 1 take a photo of Earth as it left our planetary system. In his book A Pale Blue Dot, Sagan articulates the importance of this captured moment: “If you look at Earth from space you see a dot, that’s here. That’s home. That’s us. It underscores the responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Poet, novelist, memoirist and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou’s courage, strength, creativity and compassion inspire me. One of my favorite quotes from her is, “The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.” Her boundless resilience inspires hope and fervor.

Artist Kiki Smith’s sculptures and prints depicting the human condition and the natural world have impressed me since I first saw her work during my undergraduate studies in New York. I’m drawn to her narrative mythologies and reverence for nature. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Kiki Smith: “Some people think or expect that you should make the same kinds of art forever because it creates convenient narrative…I want my work to embody my inherent contradictions.”

Anna Kaye, “Prickly Pear,” watercolor on paper.EXPAND
Anna Kaye, “Prickly Pear,” watercolor on paper.
Courtesy of Anna Kaye

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

It’s disconcerting that artists are being pushed out due to rapid development and gentrification. Denver’s strong art and nonprofit organizations will help to counteract this issue. To name just a few that strongly support the local art community and exhibit incredible art: RedLine, MCA Denver, PlatteForum, ArtLab, the Kirkland Museum, the Denver Art Museum, DAVA, the CVA, Art From Ashes, ArtReach, RiNo, Black Cube; maker and work spaces such as TANK, Processus and Art Gym Denver; plus many more inside and beyond Denver’s boundaries.

Our art community is incredibly talented and ambitious. We have the drive and dexterity to create more supportive organizations, funding opportunities and ways of unifying/connecting our artist community. If each of us gives back to our community, imagine how far we could get.

Anna Kaye, “Bleached Pine,” detail, charcoal on paper, 2014.EXPAND
Anna Kaye, “Bleached Pine,” detail, charcoal on paper, 2014.
Courtesy of Marcia Ward at the ImageMaker

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

There have been a lot of pop-up art shows in Denver. These short-term spaces help to creatively counteract gentrification and introduce new and refreshing spaces for art, and their spontaneity creates more excitement in the creative community. They present even more opportunities to connect with local artists.

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

Donating a percentage of all art sales to environmental funds for the past ten years, such as the Colorado State Forest Service, to help protect wildlife and their habitat. Inspiring students to create art in my years of teaching college art courses and at Denver Art Museum’s Drop-In Drawing sessions. Supporting women’s/human rights through a series of upcoming exhibitions titled Pink Progression has given me the opportunity to celebrate our freedom of expression to promote social change. Getting picked up by Sandra Phillips Gallery in 2006 has nurtured my career. I appreciate all of the support and wisdom she has given me over the years.

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

I would like to continue to curate/organize future shows for Pink Progression to promote women’s/human rights. I also plan to organize a large exhibition with local artists to bring about positive change for the environment. I have a lot of ideas for my studio practice, involving mammals in a reviving forest, interactive materials and projection.

Anna Kaye, “Effervescence,” colored pencil.EXPAND
Anna Kaye, “Effervescence,” colored pencil.
Courtesy of Anna Kaye

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

Love it. Our Mile High City is at the base of epic alpine terrain containing vast, awe-inspiring views of nature and wildlife. Denver offers amazing attractions, including so many family-friendly and interactive museums. I love teaching Drop-In Drawing at the Denver Art Museum, where we get to explore our creativity through a rich variety of exhibitions.

I grew up near Detroit, where vast urban decay was rampant from de-industrialization, crime and other factors. I’m not used to living in a city that is a tourist destination. Growing up near Detroit, however, did enhance my sense of empathy, compassion and love of diversity and justice.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I am incredibly inspired by each of the Pink Progression artists, as well as the group of local writers who will also be included in the exhibits. A list of their names with links to websites can be found online.

More than forty Colorado artists will participate in Anna Kaye's Pink Progression project.EXPAND
More than forty Colorado artists will participate in Anna Kaye's Pink Progression project.
Courtesy of Anna Kaye

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

As mentioned earlier, I am organizing and curating Pink Progression, inspired by the historic global women’s marches. During the marches, pink created a strong visual statement representing unity and empowerment. Over forty local artists incorporate this hue as it reflects manifestations of personal, social and gender connections. These exhibits include all gender identities and expressions.

Anna Kaye assisting students at the Denver Art Museum's Drop-In Drawing.EXPAND
Anna Kaye assisting students at the Denver Art Museum's Drop-In Drawing.
© Jaime Molina © Denver Art Museum

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

I’m really excited about the following exhibits featuring local artists in 2018: Nathan Abels in History of the Future at BMoCA, through May 28; Carlos Frésquez’s mid-career survey, through March 24 at the Center for Visual Art; and RedLine’s retrospective of their artist-in-residence program, on view through April 1.

I’m excited to see what happens with the DIY artist collective Meow Wolf Denver, which will open a four-story, 90,000-square-foot art complex with exhibit space, a bar, retail space, a cafe and a music venue in 2020. I’m also eager to see the Denver Art Museum’s renovation/expansion for the North Building, as they will bring in new opportunities for community involvement.

The first Pink Progression exhibit opens February 16 and runs through March 24 at the Boulder Public Library. Attend the Boulder opening reception on March 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. A concurrent show in Denver opens March 2 and runs through June 29, at the Denver Central Library; attend the opening reception on March 10, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. A third iteration of Pink Progression opens May 31 and runs through August 18 at the MSU Denver Center for Visual Art; attend the opening reception on May 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibits also include poetry, essays and comic art from local writers/artists, an open call for postcards from the community, collaborative artwork, artist workshops and lectures. Learn more online at the Pink Progression website or on Instagram.

Learn more about Anna Kaye and her own art practice online.

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