100 Colorado Creatives: Richard Alden Peterson

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

#3: Richard Alden Peterson

From his stint documenting punk-rockers in the 1970s and snapping art images for the early Bay Area zine Search and Destroy to his current gig -- only one of many -- as house photographer at MCA Denver, Richard Alden Peterson has covered a lot of ground with camera in hand, and he still swaggers sweetly in the black leather jacket, striped T-shirts and yellow pants of another time. A former gallery owner and ongoing community-builder among his photography peers, Peterson has a national reputation and the skills to warrant it. He's become an essential part of the arts landscape here; read on to learn what keeps him going.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Adam Lerner

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

Yikes, there are so many interesting people in the creative universe that excite or interest me, so it is hard to choose one. I am inspired my many writers, artists, musicians and off-beat creatures. Art collaboration, when successful, and when fused emotionally and intellectually between two people, often results in remarkably powerful creations: amplified visions well beyond the mere capacity of one mere soul. I have first-hand experience with this when I collaborate with my wife, Sydney Peterson. 

Dead or alive, two people who pop into my head that I would LOVE to collaborate with: Leonora Carrington, the rebellious fem-spirited painter and writer -- Carrington was my fave surrealist-philosopher, whose free, illuminated  spirit reached into dreams and desires unchained. She is one of those incredibly gifted women almost left in the dust by the male-dominated art world of her time. I'm hugely influenced by the rebel-laced creative feminine spirit, much more interesting than the confined and overly rational art structured by many men.

The other is Bruce Conner, the visionary artist, the Godfather of MTV, the West Coast artist who dabbled in various media forms yet kept a consistent vision. He taught me how to be a trouble-making purist artist and to speak my unconscious mind via visual imagery without filters or interference or influence from people who don't get it.

Continue reading for more from Richard Peterson. Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

Femen, Pussy Riot, anyone promoting fem liberation and not afraid to do it in outrageous and/or provocative ways. Would love to see women become a powerful and equal voice in the cultural universe, and often what they have to say is far more interesting than what men portray in art and culture. I'm supportive of women's liberation and equality.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Pretty art created for the sole purpose of making money from a gullible and art-ignorant public should die, unless it is by Andy Warhol, of course, whose art was the art of making money. I like his quote from one of the pop photo magazines, where he said something like, "I've never seen a photograph in my life that wasn't just incredible."

Not interested in seeing it die, but I would love to see a little less emphasis in the art world for the decades old Conceptual Art movement. So many artists are jumping on that ancient wagon because of its predominance in the museum world, often without a sense of style or art sophistication. Conceptual art often emphasizes logic and the cerebral, too often considered the male side of the universe.

As a result, I have founded the Emotionalist art movement, where the undefinable "something or other that has no name in any language" is at the top level of the art instead of Conceptual intent. Emotionalist art emphasizes feelings, sensations, things that can only be defined by "pure psychic automatism," and buries the concept on the bottom.

What's your day job?

I am a lowly commercial photographer, one of millions in the world. Since I am at heart an artist, I sometimes think of my photography-for-money as art prostitution. 

Continue reading for more from Richard Peterson. A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

Create art and art projects that open minds and promote equality and absolute freedom. Surrealist housing for the homeless, Dada robots to replace missing fathers for the children of single moms, Emotionalist art to replace shrinks, and so on.

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

Replace politicians in government, who are the least important people in our society, with artists.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

David Zimmer, with his unique and astonishing assemblages and rule-breaking photography and films, is an ongoing inspiration to me.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

My usual work, where you can always see me, shooting events for the Museum of Contemporary Art  Denver; documenting art and creating catalogs for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and working as an in-house photographer for Neiman Marcus.

At MCA Denver, I have also been creating a creative portrait series of the exhibiting artists.

As for shows, my Surrealist-tainted Emotionalist photo group Heads of Hydra will open an exhibition of lovers' collaborations on June 7 at the Carmen Weidenhoft Gallery, an amazing art bar in RiNo that's just unfolding its wings. Carmen is my gallery rep. Two bodies of my work, collaborations with Sydney Peterson and punk photos, will be exhibited at McNichols later this year.

And, in conjunction with the Mark Mothersbaugh exhibit at MCA that opens Halloween day, I will be participating in a group show of Devo photographers at the Carmen Weidenhoft Gallery extension across the street from MCA. You will also be able to see some of my Devo images in the catalog of the upcoming Mothersbaugh show.

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

Cornelia Peterson.

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.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.