A gifted artist who uses photography — as well as film and video — to document staged scenarios and performance art, Rocky Mountain School of Art + Design graduate Christine Buchsbaum is now represented by Robischon Gallery. But as an artist/resident in the international La Napoule Art Foundation’s Denver-based visiting artist program, she also works with kids in urban schools where arts programs are few and far between. Buchsbaum talks about her roles as a fine artist and mentor — and more — in the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Christine Buchsbaum: My grandfather, Robert Buchsbaum. He was mysterious and private; a beautiful person who was hard to get close to. He was a man of few words who kept to himself most of the time, but when he did speak, he was brilliant. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago. I think of him often because I always felt a special bond between us. His life fascinated me as a child. He grew up in a Tudor mansion on a 200-acre estate in Wall Township, New Jersey, where his family raised Arabian horses. His brother died at a young age from typhoid fever, and his mother later died of a broken heart. His childhood seemed to weigh heavily on his heart.
I always thought of him as an artist. He loved the Broadway theater. I used to look through stacks of Playbill issues he kept in my father's old bedroom. He had dreams of being on Broadway, but in his real life he worked for Merrill Lynch in New York City. Even though he was a businessman, he thrived on feeling inspired, which is why I think we would make wonderful art together if he were alive today. He valued the mysteries of the world, just as I do.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Much of my attention is on film right now, because I am considering exploring the mediums of video and film in my work. This recent interest led me to the work of filmmaker Yuri Ancarani. His work explores professions that aren't easily witnessed in everyday life. I saw one of his films at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles called Piattaforma, a film about six scuba divers who specialize in deep underwater operations. The film communicates the excruciating effects of claustrophobia and isolation that comes with being an underwater specialist.
When I saw this film, I had such a strong emotional response that I had to leave the viewing room. I consider myself a relatively thick-skinned person, but I could not bear the sensation of deep underwater pressure the film so vividly conveyed. All of Ancarani's films express such intense emotion. Watching his films is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The intention in his work interests me. The environments depicted are familiar and relatable but also completely strange and foreign. In a lot of ways, I think he aims to evoke a deeper insight into a world most of us will never experience.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Male and female artists using the female anatomy as an object of beauty and/or sexual desire in their work. The female body itself has the ability to transcend beyond representations of beauty and sex. I’d love to see more art where the female body is used to symbolize "oneself" or "herself.” I wish more artists would use the female body for subversive purposes that don’t pertain to women as instruments of idealism and sexual desire. I hope the future of art features more women who make art and fewer women who are "made by art."
What's your day job?
I work as an artist most days. Also, I work for an artist residency called La Napoule Art Foundation. La Napoule is a nonprofit organization supporting the local arts through a program matching artists with students in the Denver Public Schools. Many public schools in low-income areas don’t have art programs due to the property tax/school funding dilemma (the lack of funding). La Napoule’s goal is to put art back into some of these schools through their Visiting Artist Program. I recently participated as an artist in the program at Hallett Fundamental Academy. It was truly a life-changing experience for me. I would definitely recommend Colorado artists to apply. (See link below for details.)
I have been thinking about how low-income public schools students are affected by budget cuts. As part of these cuts, schools are losing experienced teachers and counselors and cutting resources and courses, and some are adopting a four-day school week. All of this profoundly affects these kids in an adverse way during their formative years. If I had unlimited funds, I would give it to all the schools in need of money, so these kids could get the education they deserve.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Make Colorado a place where artist can live, work and thrive.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I admire many Colorado artists for many reasons. The list is boundless: Ethan Bradford Barrett, Dmitri Obergfell, Theresa Anderson, Collin Parson, Sigri Strand, Joseph Coniff, Mark Sink, Kate Petley, Neil Ewing, Donald Fodness, Stephen Batura, Amber Cobb, Jared David Paul Anderson, Derrick Velazquez, Clark Richert and Pink Collar Glam: Margaret Neumann, Jennifer Harrington, Nancy J Slyter and Holly Johnson.
Colorado artist and filmmaker Shannon W. Kelly has been a primary inspiration for me. He has what I call the “photographer’s gift,” which is a rare ability to perceive the world in certain way and accurately capture it in real-time via photograph. A few months ago Shannon invited me to collaborate with him on a music video piece. Collectively, we wrote, directed, produced and starred in the video. The video is about lovers inhabiting symbolically icy landscapes in emotionally devoid modernist interiors, while utilizing outmoded technology — all illustrating troubled idealism and vacillating disconnect.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
My plans are to produce new work, travel to France for an artist residency in late October and become more and more inspired by the world.
Also, I will be participating in a group exhibition this summer highlighting the artwork of Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design Students who graduated in the early 2000s. The show, which aims to focus on certain RMCAD alumni and professors who’ve helped shape the current Denver art scene, is curated by Hillary Robinson Frey and will be held at Dateline Gallery in July.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local art community in 2015?
Many Colorado artists, hopefully.
Learn more about Christine Buchsbaum and the La Napoule Art Foundation Visiting Artist Program online.