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Now Showing: Ivar Zeile and Rebecca Peebles

Denver Digerati compadres Chris Coleman, Alex McMango, Ivar Zeile and Ryan Pattie.
Denver Digerati compadres Chris Coleman, Alex McMango, Ivar Zeile and Ryan Pattie.
Facebook.com/DenverDigerati

For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide, we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. Today, we hear from independent gallerists Ivar Zeile and Rebecca Peebles.

See also: Now Showing: Kent Thompson and Emily Tarquin

Denver Theatre District's "Friday Flash" program 2013 from Denver Digerati on Vimeo.

Ivar Zeile, Plus Gallery

Ivar Zeile's Plus Gallery has evolved through a few guises over the last ten or more years into one of Denver's plum galleries, where art both collectable and adventurous draws continuing crowds to view work by local and national artists. With a stable that includes such hot emerging names as Jenny Morgan and Xi Zhang, Zeile not only champions work with depth, but also pushes parameters. More recently, he's curated Friday Flash public digital-art and video programs with Ryan Pattie for the Denver Theatre District, opening up a whole new level of interest locally.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

The field of visual arts has expanded like wildfire in the last several years. On the surface that looks like a very positive thing, but my sense is that its all very overwhelming for a community like Denver's and brings with it a lot more questions than answers. Namely, is there genuine patron support behind the upswing? Can the media possibly cover it all in a meaningful way? A lot of great talent with depth has been brewing in Denver over the last decade or more, but trying to maintain quality and high standards is still a major challenge.

What could be done to improve the scene?

Numerous individuals and operations within the visual-art scene could stand to be more professional and respectful in their approach to others.  Leaders, whether business or community, could have a more honest, concrete understanding of what allows an art scene to thrive, what patronage is, and a desire to be a part of getting it there.  Artists could also be more thoughtful in how the "network" is structured and their role within it. Collectors could do a lot to improve the scene simply by "buying in" and continuing to support artists as they mature. Price-point and demand seem to be a major factors in why the best artists choose to leave the city for higher ground. Young professionals could possibly stand to take a few art-appreciation classes, that's for sure.  Overall, everyone could broaden their thinking and understanding of what makes a scene function well. There's not a single component that bears the brunt; there are really so many important "tipping" points that need to be reached. Oh, and eliminating the mountains and natural beauty of the state would help, as would getting rid of the Internet and cell phones, lowering gas prices  and having a system of government that everyone believes in.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

The people who have given me authentic long-term support -- those who have made the transition from being interested in art to being patrons and have started to understand the real nature of what that means, particularly as it relates to artists' careers, the livelihood of the gallery and Denver's image as a place where great art can be nurtured. Quite a number of artists that I've worked with, I don't think would have lasted more than a few years if it wasn't for their talent, understanding and human decency that has gone well above and beyond the norm. My wife -- boy, what she has put up with. And my kid, who just told his first-grade class that he wants to be an "art dealer" when he grows up!

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

We just opened an outstanding exhibition by Allie Pohl, one of the smartest, young artists anywhere right now; she is moving forward by leaps and bounds on the national level. Jenny Morgan is still on track to become one of the greatest artists ever to come out of Denver; her major NYC debut occurs in October and was just touted as one of  top 100 shows worldwide of the fall season by Modern Painters, quite deservedly so. Xi Zhang is also ready to expand his base outside of Colorado. I think the world is ready to open up to his remarkable talent based on the inquiries we've received from both galleries and collectors this year.  I look forward to further growth and interest in my community project Denver Digerati, a major focus of my efforts lately. I really can't sleep at night half the time due to the ideas percolating because of it. And Milton Melvin Croissant III: Keep an eye on that great name. He's blown my mind for the last couple of years now, and I would expect this Denver original to continue doing so.

Learn more about Plus Gallery online.

Continue reading for our interview with Rebecca Peebles

Danette Montoya and Rebecca Peebles of GroundSwell Gallery.
Danette Montoya and Rebecca Peebles of GroundSwell Gallery.
Biance Bourgeouis.

Rebecca Peebles, GroundSwell Gallery

Rebecca Peebles is a struggling artist who, along with fellow curator Danette Montoya, decided to open a gallery where other struggling artists could play a little, by presenting work that other galleries might find too adventurous or unsalable. Their Groundswell Gallery is that place -- a stopping point between the coffee house and the art museum, where emerging artists can show their most challenging works.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

Art "scene."  I'd like to start out by saying that the "scene" is a far-reaching, undefined thing in Denver.  It's hard to define so many different worlds colliding in all of the many talented artists and curators in this city.  As for current developments, I'm sensing a shift in attitude from artists that I talk to -- generally an attitude of, "This scene doesn't really support me, so I'm going to do my own thing.  I'm going to look for opportunities to make my art, show my art, take my art to bigger, more established markets in other cities and I'm going to do it on my own, in my own way." I am one of these artists, which is why I started GroundSwell Gallery to relieve expectations that are hyper-unrealistic as far as the art market goes.  Jerry Saltz says, "Let what the market creates the market destroy," and I think many artists who used to hope for a career as a self-employed artist are feeling similarly deflated by the fantasy world of Gagosian, Christie's, Sotheby's, Hirst and Koons.  All the avenues leading up to this ideal are just too slimy for most to get a grip on, and I'd say Denver is lucky to have little activity in that world as it is.  So, the developments I'm seeing and hearing about may seem like a de-evolution or disregard for the status quo of the national scene, but I believe in self-realization.  Maybe this is not news to many, but I think it's awesome to hear how folks are blazing their own trails.

What could be done to improve the scene?

Denver's art scene would improve if people start buying art for the sake of bringing beautiful work, meaningful, moving work into their homes and workplaces. It's not about buying pretty pictures that are affordable matching your wall color.  It's not even about buying something you don't really like just to support an artist.  It's about investing in yourself because the artwork that you see moves you and speaks to your self that only you know.  Or, it's about bringing meaningful artwork into a workplace or public area in your office so that those inhabiting this space feel a unique and genuine connection to the art that is being created in our society right now.  This is a message to anyone who considers buying art or who needs "something on the walls in here":  The price is right. Practically nothing in Denver is overpriced. Much of what is out there is good and is available for you.  You won't regret the money you spend once the artwork that moved you is in your life every day. My message to artists is this: Keep making art that you believe in. You know if it's good or not. Don't make stuff that you think is "trending" or that "sells." You can't predict these things. Make work that improves our understanding of beauty, of ourselves, of society, of problems that need solving.  It's tough to sell work no matter what you make, so why sell out on the part that makes you feel like a more whole person -- the part about making art?

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

My biggest inspiration for my art career are the architects and design students with whom I spent time at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Namely, Michael P. Johnson and his wife, Suzanne Johnson, Aris Georges and, most important, my own husband, Christian Butler. These are the people who taught me never to sell out. This meant never making work that you don't believe in, that you couldn't boldly stand up for and claim as YOURS. These are the people who see all things as part of the art work -- the sun, the earth, the resonance of a room, the craftsmanship of the frame around the drawing, the dinnerware, etc., etc. I am inspired to create the most beautiful and well-crafted objects, relationships and legacy that I can because of these big thinkers. Most important, my husband and I have an agreement that our number-one priority is to have joy. This inspires me infinitely, as I am always able to gauge whether I am happy, and I can direct my own career from that priority.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

As can be assumed from my previous statements about the developments and needed improvements to the art scene in Denver, I am looking for authentic expression. I am looking for the best craftsmanship and commitment to one's own intelligent expression of his or her unique voice as a visual artist. This includes all mediums. Forget the trends. I am also watching for a consistent critical voice in Denver. Many artists and curators in Denver talk of the lack of critical discussion and journalism in regard to the arts. A constructive, critical thinker reflecting views and opinions about artists' and curators' work will propel the intelligence of Denver's art community. This fall, I'm interested in Hinterland, Cortney Stell's work at RMCAD and beyond, Lanny DeVuono's curated RedLine exhibition The Ironic Object, and whatever the new ArtPlant becomes. I'll abstain from mentioning specific artists because I really have too many I admire, and I'm not about to lay down a vague sense of expectation for anyone.

Visit GroundSwell online for more information.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with Tony Garcia of Su Teatro and Tria Xiong of Theatre Esprit Asia.

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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