Daisy Patton culls images from found photographs. She blows them up, obscures them with paint and alters them with vivid colors. Her work stirs imagined memories and the ghosts of family histories and bygone relationships. A traveler through life with an activist’s heart, she’s been settled in Colorado for five years, two of them as a RedLine resident. Lately, she has been applying her self-described hustle toward completing work for her second solo show at Michael Warren Gallery, in the Art District on Santa Fe. We caught up with Patton in advance of the exhibit's opening. Her answers to the 100CC questionnaire follow.
Daisy Patton: Collaboration is like a romantic relationship, in a way, and while I'm always open to collaborating with others, finding time and material always seems to be a problem. The chemistry never seems right! The artists I admire greatly throughout history aren't ones I'd want to collaborate with, because I'd much rather stalk them and watch them work rather than muddy up their process.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
This is a tough one to narrow down. Rebecca Solnit’s writing has been constantly inspiring and mindset-changing for years, but her work's focus on hope has been very meaningful for me right now. Her writing has always spanned several subjects, and she has a background in political activism. Seeing her become hopefully one of many beacons of light is something I find both necessary and powerful. As someone who is multidisciplinary and pragmatic, she inspires me to keep going when I might not want to and transforms ideas I thought I already understood.
The things in the art world that bother me greatly are art that 1) oppresses or excludes and 2) is insincere. I'm disheartened by the continued low representation of artists who aren't cis/het white men, and it’d be great to see more opportunities for shows, grants and sales for underrepresented communities. The idea that being educated is elitist is another trend I’d like to see dismantled. There's been a strain of anti-intellectualism in this country for some time, and to me, it's a stifling of curiosity and growth — something that should be anathema to artists. Don't get me wrong: Student-loan debt is atrocious (I’ll never be able to pay mine off), but we maybe should focus our efforts on reforming institutions that create debt rather than students who pursued higher education.
What's your day job?
I hustle! Recently finished adjuncting a class; I've freelanced, been a professional printer, sold my work, etc. I am grateful I'm not working as much as I used to in my twenties (a full-time job, plus part-time work, plus art-making), since it's physically impossible now, as I’ve been fighting multiple sclerosis for the last seven years.
Unlimited, eh? I'd help fund several art nonprofits (the beloved RedLine comes to mind), build some dedicated studio spaces for local artists that would be affordable, with long-term leases (with proper AC/heat, ventilation, sinks, etc.); establish grants for individual artists that aren't tied specifically to projects only; fund other social-justice-oriented nonprofits, arts education for lower income/under-resourced youth, media grants (supplies are expensive!); and create an artist retirement fund. Once that’s done, I’d hire some studio assistants to wash my brushes and build, prime and mount panels for me — all things I loathe and that take a lot of time and labor. I'm sure there's more with unlimited funds, but that would be a starting point.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I am incredibly grateful to all the opportunities and community that make up Denver's art scene. It's a welcoming environment that allows for a lot of different types of art-making and a very unique cultural vibrancy. There are downsides to some parts of the scene (as I mentioned before, not terribly inclusive for people of color and/or women), and I hope that is something that does shift as more critical discussions and work are made. I've lived all over the U.S., and it's hard to match the exact ingredients that makes Denver's scene so exciting.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
The list I had for the "unlimited funds" would be a good start. Too many artists can't find adequate studios or living spaces, which means being priced out of a place they helped create. A city that truly cares about art has to care about the artists that create that work and make their culture possible. I know it's a problem across the country and that too many people would rather not fund social good because they don't want to pay a little extra in taxes, but it's not much to achieve a great deal. Keeping artists impoverished is a choice, not a certainty. There's so much subsidizing for other small businesses and other entrepreneurial ventures, and while I hate conflating the art market with art itself, it's not hard to see that prioritizing the protection of the creative class is a no-brainer for city enrichment.
There are so many wonderful creatives, it's hard to choose just one! Those who support artists, such as RedLine executive director Louise Martorano, GOCA director Daisy McGowan and Arvada Center director of galleries Collin Parson (McGowan and Parson are also both artists); artists who look out for others and mentor, like Alicia Bailey, Ian Fisher, Stephen Batura and Doug Kacena; artists whose work is personally exciting to me, like Suchitra Mattai, Jodi Stuart, Frankie Toan, Laura Shill, Michael Theodore, Thomas Evans, Katie Caron and so many more that would take up this whole interview if I kept listing! It's a testament to Colorado that there are so many voices to choose from.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am very much looking forward to my upcoming solo at Michael Warren Contemporary. I'll be showing the largest and, in some cases, most complex painting work I've ever created. I also am participating in my last RedLine Resident Show (sniff) as an outgoing resident, and I'll be showing a piece that is quite personal for me. I have a residency at MASS MoCA this March, where I'll work on an embroidery project about forced sterilization in the United States and Puerto Rico. I have other national shows, in Philadelphia and Albuquerque, for which I'll be prepping, as well as a visiting-artist lecture in February. I am trying to be a little more purposeful about having some "treat yo-self” painting work that isn't for a specific show, so I'll be tackling some other big pieces — once I can pick which one!
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
It'd be fabulous to see Jodi Stuart get some recognition for her incredibly complex, thoughtful work. There's a great batch of new and current RedLine residents that I see doing great things, too!
See works by Daisy Patton in Nice Work If You Can Get It: Resident Artist Exhibition, an annual group exhibit opening with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, January 20, and running through February 26 at RedLine. Patton’s solo show, Throw My Ashes Into the Sea: New Works by Daisy Patton, opens January 24 and runs through March 24 at Michael Warren Contemporary. Attend the opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, January 27; additional receptions take place on First and Third Fridays.