Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives: Marie Vlasic

#11: Marie Vlasic

Like many of her portrait subjects, painter Marie Vlasic has nothing to hide. There's no pretense to her hyper-realistic work: She paints what she sees -- a lot of it skin, much of that skin tatted and otherwise permanently decorated. But her visual observations also peer deeply into what lies beneath each model's in-your-face physical presence, and the result is stunning and unsettling. In recent years, Vlasic has headed to Black Rock City with a camera to photograph denizens of Burning Man that she later reinterprets into paintings. Called the Black Rock Portrait Project, it's Vlasic's kismet concept, perfectly suited to her style.

What inspires Marie Vlasic? Get a closer look by reading her 100CC questionnaire, which follows.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Pangloss Gravitron

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

I'll be perfectly honest, I'm not much of a collaborator. I'm more of a lone-wolf sort of artist. I'm usually too neurotic and controlling to play nicely with others, but that being said, there are definitely a few people it would have been amazing to know. The first artist that comes to mind is DaVinci. The man was obviously brilliant, but so much more than just that. I really admire his multidisciplinary inventiveness and dedication, not to mention he seems to have been a bit of a rebel. I like that. I would have so much to learn from him. Andy Warhol would be fascinating -- there was so much more to him than that vacant facade he showed the world. I'd love to get a peak inside that brain.

Alexander McQueen would definitely be on my list. He was an astounding designer. His fashion was art, and I'm still so in love with his aesthetic. And Chuck Close. He is my idol. I'd wash his paint brushes, cook his breakfast -- heck, I'd probably lick the wheels of his chair just to spend a little time in the studio with him.

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

I've been kind of obsessed with Bill Murray lately. Whether the stories about him are true or not (I dearly hope they are true), they are fascinating. He is so completely his own man, living on his own terms without giving a hoot what anyone thinks. He's having a great time just being Bill. This is a trait I want for myself. I care far too much what other people think. Mr. Murray is my personal hero. And I'd really love to paint him.

On the art front, I'm currently enamored with Yumiko Kayukawa, Van Arno, Will Cotton, David LaChappelle and Nick Cave, among others. Imagination and decadence is the common thread with these artists. I may be a decent painter, but I feel I lack the imagination of these amazing talents. I'm working on incorporating this more and more into my work and am excited about breaking out of my artistic shell, so to speak, through the influence of these artists.

Continue reading for more from Marie Vlasic. What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Well I wouldn't really call it a "trend," but I'd love to see the high-end art market stop manipulating art auctions and prices and turning art into pure commodity. It's getting a little ridiculous. My wish would be that collectors start buying more work from living artists and supporting careers instead of hanging another multimillion-dollar dead artist's painting on their wall. It would change everything.

As far as the art itself, I wouldn't want to see anything "die." There is a lot of art I don't "get," and even dislike greatly, but I fully support all forms of creativity and expression. You never know where it's going to lead, and that's a beautiful thing. On a personal note, I'd like to see art veer more towards skill- and talent-based work than pure concept. I'm old-fashioned. My preference is for highly skilled, beautiful work that makes me smile, but that's just my personal opinion. It's all good, truly.

What's your day job?

I am an artist. That's my "job." I do have a couple of part-time side gigs that help pay the bills. I've been a dog-sitter for about a year now, and I love it. It's the perfect side-job for me as I work at home and love dogs (I have two pugs of my own). I also write a DIY/Lifestyle blog, though this is as much to satisfy my inner alter-ego as anything else. (In another life I'm sure I was an interior and/or fashion designer.) It's a fun outlet for me. Even painters need a break from the easel sometimes.

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

Ah, every artist's dream! I would paint, paint, paint! To be able to focus completely on creation without worrying about money or having to sell the work, that's the stuff. Complete artistic freedom. I have so many paintings in my head I want to do that it would take more than a lifetime to paint them all, and with the funds to cover the cost of living, I'd actually have a decent shot at getting most of them painted. I'd have to buy a big-ass live-work space, with some land for gardening and animals. I'd also love to create some large-scale sculptures.

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Grants and support for individual artists. Colorado is woefully behind in this regard. Low-cost (state subsidized?) studio spaces would be a great help as well.

Continue reading for more from Marie Vlasic. Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Oooo, that's a tough question. I couldn't pick just one. There are so many artists I love and admire here. Dan Sprick, Wes Hempel, Regan Rosberg, Jason Theilke, Lonnie Hanzon, Rick Dula, Ian Fisher...and so many more.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

The biggest thing this year is that I am planning on returning to Burning Man to continue my Black Rock Portrait Project, and will spend as much time as possible working on paintings for the project before I go so I can share them at the event. I also plan to take more photos of people at the festival to do more painting from in the future. I've been working on this project for a few years and have another year or two to go with it, then I plan on exhibiting the full project in at least one gallery (TBD), preferably a few galleries around the country. I'm still excited about this series and am looking forward to seriously getting at it this year. There is no other project like it out there related to the Burning Man event. 

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?

I'm going to rephrase this question as, who do I think will get noticed outside of Colorado this year? This is more important. The bottom line is, while Coloradans are generally supportive of the arts, and it is very much appreciated, there is not enough monetary support here (i.e., not enough art is being sold here) for an artist to make it strictly as a Colorado artist. To have a successful career we have to get our work outside of the state.

On that note, there are several artists who I think are ready for their mational close-up, though the first name that comes to mind is Mark Penner Howell. I've admired his work for years and watched his skill level increase dramatically. It's just beautiful. His style and subject matter fit perfectly the current zeitgeist of the popular art seen in magazines such as Hi-Fructose and Juxtapoz, and I think his work would do gangbusters on the West Coast in particular. I'll be surprised if he is not picked up by a big L.A. gallery this year.

Learn more about Marie Vlasic at her website or Facebook page. Find more about the Black Rock Project online, as well.

Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

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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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd