Westword's Artopia 2017 celebrated street art and street style. On February 25, City Hall was filled with artists and other creative types, and one of the most stylish was artist Ava Van Deursen, who grew up in a family of artists in Golden and has always created art. "The city was never too far," she remembers. "I have fond memories of when I was a teen, hitching rides with older classmates to go to punk and hip-hop shows in the city."
We stopped to chat with Van Deursen about what inspires her art and her fashion, and what it's like being a working artist in Denver.
Westword: Who or what inspires your art work?
Ava Van Deursen: There are many things in my life that contribute to my work. My main inspiration comes from the beauty that I see in my relationships with people, but also to counter that, I'm inspired to act and to share my voice and experience as a woman artist. Women, let alone women artists, are not considered equal to men in this culture and many others. A lot of my work is centered around a dialogue about the equality of the sexes and the toxicity of a culture which propagates women as second-class citizens. The pieces I create are to honor the beauty in our humanity, the beauty of our bodies, and our sexes.
Who or what inspires your personal style?
I have always had a very unique style. My grandmother taught me to sew at a very young age, and I was creating my own clothing throughout my teen years. I wanted to be a fashion designer and actually attended Pratt Institute in New York during high school. Needless to say, I ended up pursuing art, but fashion is near and very, very dear to my heart. My style is inspired by a mix [of] urban/street and ’50s pinup, if you can imagine.
What is your favorite medium?
I think it changes, but I will say right now it's definitely painting acrylic on tar.
What is your favorite color?
Teal, all day. Although black is pretty much neck and neck.
What is your favorite accessory?
Makeup. I don't know if that is even considered an accessory, but I think it's so incredibly diverse, and it can make an outfit. I'm an artist, so I love the artistry within it.
Where do you shop for fashion?
Ross is a mainstay, but I also frequent the Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill. I'm not crazy about labels. I like vintage and secondhand, and I think it's important to be unique with your style. It's all about your vision.
What is your style mantra, something you say to yourself when getting dressed?
Basically, I walk into my closet and I ask myself, on a scale of one to ten, "How sexy or gangster do I feel right now?"
What is your favorite film?
I hate this question, because I love films and I really can't narrow it down to one. So here are my top three: Pride & Prejudice, Kill Bill and The Notebook. Romance fanatic and badass chicks, basically.
What is your favorite song right now, your jam of the moment?
I've been diggin' Childish Gambino's new album, specifically "Redbone." So fuckin' sexy.
What did you think of Artopia? What were your favorite moments of the night?
Artopia is always fucking insane. Didn't disappoint this year! The mural contest was legit. I was asked to help judge. It was really challenging to pick a winner, especially because I know a lot of the artists and respect all of their work. Casey Kawaguchi won the contest. His work is incredible. It was dope, though; if you weren't there, you missed out, for sure.
Do you consider fashion art?
Always. Fashion excites me just like art does. Wearing your artistic expression is incredibly fun and can make you feel amazing.
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Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I'm super-thankful for Denver for coming up. It's come a long way, although the arts are constantly facing a pushback. I think with the current political climate, we're all feeling weary. I love this city and am saddened, specifically, by the way the DIY community and organizations have been treated by our local government. It's not easy being an artist in this city right now. Its fucking expensive, and finding a studio that you can afford is nearly impossible. The people in the DIY community are super-creative and come together to support artists. The way they're being treated is not akin to a city that prides itself on art and culture.
Like Van Deursen, always pride yourself on your art, Denver.