Jacqueline Webster is a photographer’s photographer, putting in time in her own studio, but also teaching out-of-the-ordinary techniques to new generations at the Art Students League of Denver and working to bolster the art of the camera as a cheerleader and veteran volunteer. You might not see her work on the wall during Month of Photography 2017, but you will see the fruit of her efforts behind the scenes, as part of the team that makes things happen. We invited Webster to come out from backstage to say what’s on her mind as an artist and photography booster; her answers to the 100CC questionnaire follow.
Jacqueline Webster: Oddly enough, I would choose a minimalist sculptor like Barbara Hepworth or Alexander Calder. I love the idea of paring things down to their essence and being challenged to force my work out into three dimensions. Or maybe a glass artist like Paul Stankard; I totally have a glass fetish.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
It’s not so much a single person as a movement. I’m really interested and influenced by the fine-craft movement right now. I’m seeing these incredible artists able to both work within a tradition and push their medium forward at the same time. It’s something that I think the fine-art world has lost track of, and something I feel particularly attached to given how I choose to work.
Ugh. Let’s kill the “MFA photography look.” Bland, pastel portraits of people and places full of faux angst and overly staged – it all looks the same, and it’s trying way too hard to be conceptual. If I have to read your novel of an artist’s statement to get anything out of it, you’ve failed. Log out of Facebook and go live for a while – that’s how you develop your voice.
What's your day job?
Most days it involves making art and keeping my now-disabled husband healthy and working. I’m also a part-time faculty at Art Students League of Denver and a random volunteer at Colorado Photographic Arts Center’s darkroom.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Ooh – I’d do a few things. The first thing that I would do is take an actual vacation – Europe, Canada, the Pacific Northwest; travel feeds my head. Second, I would build an arts center that focuses on fine craft and handmade photography, with studios, residencies, a gallery and outreach to the community — very intersectional and collaborative. Third, I’d set aside a chunk to endow education at small institutions like the Eastman Museum so that those who want to either learn to make the art or conserve it could afford to do so. And, of course, I would build the darkroom and studio of my dreams.
A couple of years ago I would have said “love unconditionally,” but now I think it has become “love with reservations.” It’s getting too big, expensive and homogenous, too fast. I love the distinct neighborhoods within the city, and it pains me to see so many of them razed to build pressed-board cracker boxes. It’s like we’ve opened our arms to neo-brutalism.
What keeps me here? Roots. My husband and I moved here exactly twenty years ago; we have friends, community and careers here, plus a tiny little house we love on Lookout Mountain. What makes me want to leave? The crazy, angry drivers; the absolute inability to go anywhere in the mountains in summer without dealing with hordes of people; and the fact that Denver has this complex about respecting and supporting its artists.
We’re so fixated on chasing that “world-class city” label that we can’t see that the true world-class cities earned that label by honoring and supporting what makes them unique. In short, they started at home and built themselves into these wonderful things by supporting the people who live there, because that’s who does the real work. We need to do more of that in Denver.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
The same thing they need to do for a large swath of the population: make it affordable to live and work here. Grants for work or education; rent control and/or subsidies for living and working space; more active promotion of the arts and culture beyond “the big five.” You have to spend money to make money, and it’s high time Denver and the state ponied up. I can’t be an “economic generator” if I’m constantly living on the edge of poverty.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Well, photo-wise, I love the work of Andrew Beckham — it’s so thoughtful and quiet. I’m also a fan of Gayla Lemke’s ceramic sculpture. I own one of her soul stones, and wish I could afford to own a couple of her bigger pieces.
Thinking and doing big. I need to lose my provincial mindset and reach further. I want to reach out more, be more involved in my community on more levels, and challenge myself to be bigger when it comes to my work and practice.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
You know, I don’t get out enough anymore because of the rest of my life, but I suspect that community-based, collaborative efforts will take the forefront this year; the political climate just seems to be pushing things that way. For Month of Photography, I’m seeing some underrated members of the old guard finally getting well-deserved shows in major venues, and that’s fantastic: Gems should be shown off, not hidden. As for “new” talent? I’d like to see some of my students go out and do fantastic things. So much potential comes through my classroom that I’d like to see bloom.
Learn more about Jacqueline Webster at her website and professional Facebook page. Register online for Webster’s specialty classes at the Art Students League of Denver.