#70: Thomas Scharfenberg
As an artist, Thomas Scharfenberg isn't so interested in getting ahead. Instead, he prefers to brighten the underground with patterned murals and painted rocks placed in unexpected settings. He borrows a little from street art, the DIY movement and his one-time mentor at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, Clark Richert, and has shown work at venues as wildly different as the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and Lowbrow Denver. You wouldn't expect his answers to the 100CC questionnaire to be run-of-the mill, and they aren't. Read on for a fresh look at artistic life.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why? Thomas Scharfenberg: It would be cool to collaborate with a large-scale, environmentally friendly progressive paint or surface-coating company... maybe a combination of Johnny Appleseed and the Sherwin Williams Paint "Cover the Earth" advertising campaign (ha ha ha). I also would like to further Alan Turing's research into organic pattern formation.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I find my eight-year-old neighbor Omar an inquisitive, energetic and inspiring youth. He visits my outdoor workshop frequently, and occasionally, usually successfully, acts as the salesperson of the various painted blocks and objects I am working on. Other persons of interest to me right now are such mysterious local graffiti writers as NAMY, WARCS, DINAR and ELAB.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I don't know if it's a trend exactly, but I think I might I like to see the words "art," "artist" and "gallery" retired this year. I'd also like to see an emphasis on good food snacks at events continue.
What's your day job?
My typical day includes an early morning bike ride westward across the industrial, urban, suburban street settings of metro Denver into the rural and foothill terrain of west Arvada to a large-scale wholesale greenhouse. It's a satellite location of Tagawa's, where I help maintain whichever plants need care in relation to the season. For example, we are now finishing our summer bedding and potted flowers and starting our winter crops of cyclamen and poinsettias. This place is huge, an industrial scale and assembly-line style plant factory really, but it definitely has a big influence on my creative processes and work ethic. A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
One fantastical and evolving idea utilizing maximum resources could be to rework or create a "new" city grid-system based on pattern sets of five parallel lines rather than the somewhat standardized two-line sets. The end-product would be an all-over "earthwork" highlighted along new grid points and lines, creating visual pictures and stimuli at multiple scales and perspectives.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I have numerous ideas, listed in no particular order: 1) For every two hours of Bronco games watched, visit or spend one hour at a museum, theater, library, educational program, outdoor park, or do yard work, crafts, hobbies, etc. 2) Continue to sidestep any boring, clean, white cube "Art" settings. 3) Adopt a more self-empowered, DIY attitude toward appreciating and "accenting" the physical environment in which we find ourselves, and forego the "public approval process." 4) Paint stuff, plant flowers, explore, make parades and music, get out and do and make stuff. 5) Implement "View 'n' Commute" spaces; these would be safe and interesting drive-by highway, freeway, interstate, street, car, public transportation displays/installations, implemented guerrilla-style if necessary. 6) Embrace a public mentality enthusiastic about painting and/or magnetic sticker-covering the visually plain, boring cars and associated landscapes of the world with shapes, colors and patterns. 7) Stop driving to galleries and insist on more gallery hopping by bicycle. 8) Support more potluck and community-type meals.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There are so many! To name only one individual would be inaccurate. My favorite "influential creative environments" include: RMCAD (before recent changes), Wazee Union, Rhinoceropolis, GTP, Lowbrow, Showpen, DAVA... What's on your agenda in the coming year? I will be displaying numerous painted found objects in a group show called Street Werkz at Firehouse Art Center in Longmont (other artists include Tokyo Drift, Frank Kwiatkowski, Mark Sink, Gamma Acosta). I also plan on attending the Denver Digerati outdoor LED screen "Friday Flash" viewing series.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local art community in 2014?
In 2014, I think lots of new spots, spaces and projects will be popping up along the newly constructed light-rail lines, especially the line that runs through RiNo and connects DIA to Union Station. An individual already pretty noticeable is creative Colin Ward (aka Tokyo Drift, aka Alphabets).
See work by Thomas Scharfenberg in Street Werkz, at the Firehouse Art Center, through July 19; attend a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. July 11. Visit the Firehouse website for information. Learn more about Thomas Scharfenberg and his work online.
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.
To keep up with the Froyd's eye view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.
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