A photograph from My Days With Val, by Jill Mustoffa. The exhibit opens April 21 at Kanon Collective.
A photograph from My Days With Val, by Jill Mustoffa. The exhibit opens April 21 at Kanon Collective.
Courtesy of Jill Mustoffa

100 Colorado Creatives 3.0: Jill Mustoffa

#23: Jill Mustoffa

Photographer, animal lover, collector, Denver Punk Scene archivist, caregiver and person of the world, Jill Mustoffa favors shots of neon signs and runaway grocery carts from behind the lens and is handy with tools as a home-restoration whiz. A Kanon Gallery member with a solo show in the works for April, Mustoffa brings a fresh outsider’s outlook to her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.

Jill Mustoffa and a boyfriend.
Jill Mustoffa and a boyfriend.
Tammy Shine

Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Jill Mustoffa: He isn't history, he is very much alive and well: Mark Penner Howell. That man's hand blows me away! I'm not a painter, but it is something I would like to learn. I was fortunate I got to work with him at the Denver County Fair. He is the most genuine, friendly and personable person one could ever meet. He makes you feel good about you. I would love to learn the techniques he uses.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

My friend Val. A good friend introduced me to Val four years ago. I fell in love with her and her family right off. Val is a retired schoolteacher and Girl Scout troop leader. I recently found out one of my old friends from the punk-rock days in the ’80s was her neighbor and did an elaborate play with her kids in Val's back yard. Small world!

Val is 93 years old, with a wicked sense of humor, a sharp wit. She keeps me on my toes and on the floor laughing every time I see her. I'm a very sarcastic, blunt person with a dark sense of humor, and Val gets that; she feeds off of me. I am a very lucky person: I get to come and hang out with Val, and she has welcomed me and my dog, Hammer, into her home and life. She brightens my days.

Val is also the subject of my solo show in April at Kanon Art Collective.

Jill Mustoffa, "Graffiti Paintout."
Jill Mustoffa, "Graffiti Paintout."
Courtesy of Jill Mustoffa

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

I don't want anything to die, really. I would file it under "O" for Opinions. To each his own. But what irks my eyes is poorly executed HDR photography and its augmented reality. It shouldn't be used for real estate or portraits. HDR apps in particular are the worst culprits. I do love a saturated color, and I do love to see the detail, but please use sparingly!

What's your day job?

Well that's hard to say — I’m the Jill of all trades. I'm self-employed, doing anything from sewing to house painting or laying tile.

Jill Mustoffa, "Reflection of Life Choices."
Jill Mustoffa, "Reflection of Life Choices."
Courtesy of Jill Mustoffa

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

$pread the wealth, baby! I’d build children's city farm/adventure playgrounds. What is that? Well, it is a working farm within the city limits where children can learn animal husbandry, gardening and life lessons while working with animals and the land. I worked at such a place in Berlin, Germany, for nine years — amazing experience.

I’d also create senior artist/musician community retirement homes. We are all getting older, and I know that I won't, and nor will my peers, be comfortable — nor would we fit — in a senior home that is managed by some corporation. We would probably get kicked out or not be accepted because we don't have the funds. We as a collective would choose who our caregivers are.

And I’d travel the world with a fellow artist, with camera in hand. There are so many shopping carts that need their portraits taken.

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

You mean “New Denver"? Hate it! I do love that we are finally getting some good places to eat and a great art scene, but I miss the old Denver from the ’80s. What's holding me here? My senior horse and Val.

Jill Mustoffa, "As the Sun Sets."
Jill Mustoffa, "As the Sun Sets."
Courtesy of Jill Mustoffa

What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?

Give all creative artists affordable housing and studios, and support art galleries and artists’ warehouses rather than grow houses. Besides, growhouses don't need to be in the city limits.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Seth Totten of Acme Neon started bending neon in 1991. He is a true craftsman. He has restored many signs in Denver. It’s not just a business to him; it's his passion. Everything he touches turns to gold, and every sign he works on has been lovingly repaired or restored: A and D Motel, El Chapultepec, Caboose Lounge, 20th Street Cafe, Mozart Lounge, to name a few. I drove down Broadway and saw one of my favorite signs was missing. Then I walked into Seth's shop, and my heart jumped for joy because he is restoring the Broadway Motel sign.

Jill Mustoffa's portrait of artist Jesse Frazier/Faim Worldwide.
Jill Mustoffa's portrait of artist Jesse Frazier/Faim Worldwide.
Courtesy of Jill Mustoffa

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

That's hard to say. I do want to travel the states and photograph neon signs, rural decay and abandoned shopping carts, plus whatever shiny or more likely rusty object that catches my eye.

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

Jesse Frazier/Faim Worldwide, a member of Cabal Gallery on South Broadway. He’s a fantastic pop street artist. He uses vintage signage, comic books, B-movie posters, etc. and reconfigures them to tell a different story. He is now expanding into murals that can be seen on the corner of Colfax Avenue and Williams Street, and under 1-70 as part of the ’Duct Work Project. I have been watching his work for years, and he has truly grown into a fine artist. I know he will go far.

My Days With Val, an exhibit of photographs by Jill Mustoffa, opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 21, at Kanon Collective, and runs through April 30. Attend additional receptions on the first and third Fridays in April. Learn more about Jill Mustoffa and her work online.

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