Incoming RedLine resident Megan Gafford conducts experiments with artful outcomes, mining science for haunting imagery and space to closely consider things we fear or don’t understand. A recent MFA graduate at the University of Colorado Boulder, Gafford asks big questions and does the groundwork to find the answers. What goes on in her creative laboratory? Learn more from her 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Megan Gafford: Richard Feynman, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and discovered what went wrong in the Challenger Disaster in 1986, two years before his death. Learning about his thoughts on science, how stuff works and the unknown have been hugely influential on me. Perhaps I’ve been trying to collaborate with the memory of Feynman, so I wish I could work with the real person.
Right now, I have a collection of uranium ore left over from my last installation, in which I grappled with humanity’s relationship to nuclear radiation. Feynman loved science, but suffered from existential dread after he used it to help create the bomb. He could offer me great insight as I figure out where that project is leading me and new possibilities for uranium as an art material.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Maria Popova, an essayist who self-publishes on her website Brain Pickings. Her wide-ranging musings are a poetic record of a well-examined life. One of my life goals is to become her friend.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I worry that all-women shows are, in effect, a junior league. We don’t have “all-men” exhibitions, because those are just exhibitions. This is a problem that I discuss in an essay about the Women of Abstract Expressionism show at the Denver Art Museum. In lieu of the all-women-show trend, curators should actively strive to include far more women. Gallerists should try to balance their rosters. Collectors should deeply contemplate what kind of cultural legacy they want to create when they invest in artists. Writers should cover women artists more, without focusing on their womanhood at the expense of a serious discussion of their artwork. This kind of self-imposed affirmative action can act as a stop gap until society truly does treat women as equals. Everyone is culpable for inequality.
What's your day job?
Teaching studio art at CU Boulder.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Unlimited? I wouldn’t stop at funding my artwork and traveling the world — I would be funding general research in every field, other artists, and building an intergalactic fleet to explore the cosmos. There would be fully funded artist residencies on the Starship Enterprise.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I’ve only lived here for three years, but I’ve never lived anywhere for very long. I don’t know what it means to have a long-term home, and it’s difficult to comprehend living in a single place forever. I’m definitely sticking around for at least a couple more years, but I have no idea what my future holds.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I’m going to choose two, because they sometimes work together and currently (until September 24) have an excellent two-person exhibition called Girl Crush at the Galleries of Contemporary Art in Colorado Springs: Laura Shill and Amber Cobb. The show includes both a collaborative installation and individual work. They both often dwell on absent bodies, and the tension between what is beautiful and grotesque about bodies. Parts of the show are almost irresistibly tempting to stroke and poke.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I’ve been accepted into the two-year residency program at RedLine, and just moved into my new studio. I’m sure I’ll be participating in a lot going on there! In 2017, I’m excited about two site-specific installations I’ll create. The first, in March, will be for BMoCA’s Present Box series. In November, I’ll have a large installation in a show curated by Jessica Brunecky at RedLine.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I’ve started helping my friend Anthony Buchanan program his experimental film series Cinema Contra in various venues in the Five Points neighborhood. His series is frequented by a lot of local filmmakers and a handful of other kinds of artists, but I think that the larger arts community will start to take notice more.
Also, the Jensdotter Project in Boulder is helping bring much needed gallery space to that city. It’s owned and directed by Amber Jensdotter, and she’s determined to be a positive force.
Last but not least, I think Dylan Gebbia-Richards is an excellent artist with a bright future. He’s got work in the Arvada Center’s fortieth-anniversary Looking Back/Moving Forward exhibition that’s up until November 13.
Learn more about Megan Gafford online.