A printmaker and dedicated faculty member at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Jennifer Garner honed her curating chops over ten years at Auraria’s Emmanuel Gallery and Metro’s Center for Visual Art. Now she’s on board at Denver International Airport, curating changing exhibits that give thousands of travelers passing through each day their first inkling of what Denver is all about (see more below). What goes on in the mind of an artist who travels through every trend in art? We asked Garner to give us another inkling by answering the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Jennifer Garner: I have a printmaking background, so first I would want to make prints with Jasper Johns, because his work was heavily influential to me in grad school. I’d start with a dinner party of sorts, with a handful of some favorite creatives. Cindy Sherman could bring tea; George Carlin brings tomatoes; Andrew Wyeth brings eggs; Lucille Ball brings chocolate; Dali brings lobster. Robert Longo, John Lennon, Frank Lloyd Wright, Henri Matisse, Edward Hopper and Allen Ginsberg would be there, too. We could collaborate on launching a TED Talk-style lecture series with anyone from history with the goal of engaging the public into more important conversations regarding creative sustainability.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I’ve always been especially interested in the environmental artists, specifically those whose work responds to societal consumption, creates a dialogue between art and science and/or works in tandem with nature. Jason de Caires Taylor, Chakaia Booker, Pam Longobardi, Mathilde Roussel, Chris Jordan and, of course, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are some all-time faves. As a former academic, research and multi-layered visual messaging intrigues me the most. I have a deep respect for artists who dedicate their lives to the root of global issues. Alternately, I also am one to see compositional beauty in everything, so the artists who use the earth as their artistic catalyst are to me absolute visionaries.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Fingernail art, or what’s being touted as “manicure masterpieces.” Some van Gogh "Starry Night" fingernails were recently thrust into my personal space, and I was dumbfounded, because the person didn’t even know the name of the painting. I wish they had instead indulged me in a story of a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, where they actually saw "The Starry Night." Ohhh, and sunburn art. Have you seen the "Mona Lisa" sunburn? I think the Skin Cancer Foundation is sort of freaking out about that one.
But more seriously, something I wish would go away is the soaring prices for the most sought-after art that we see at the art markets/fairs and auctions. This is great for the art world in general, but that trickles down in a negative way, because I keep reading that most collectors are after the same thing: pristine pieces realized by the most popular or trendiest artists. I admire collectors who conduct their own meaningful research to truly understand the art world, which results in them taking more risks on emerging and mid-career artists. Simply put, just collect what you love. Art critic Clement Greenburg once said: “It hits you. You like it, that's all.”
What's your day job?
I’m the curator of the temporary exhibitions as part of the Arts & Culture Program at Denver International Airport. There are roughly six areas within the airport that I get to curate and propose shows for, with a few of those spots dedicated strictly to Colorado artists, communities or organizations, which is exciting to me.
Being new to this position has meant hitting the ground running, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve always loved the art programming at DIA because of the ties to fine art, culture and history. I’ve had the privilege of being part of a few large projects in the past, so for me it’s a really great fit.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
That’s sort of like the “win the lottery” question, so my knee-jerk response would be to first take care of my family, travel, buy a really cool convertible Shelby Mustang and a six-pack of dachshunds.
My sensible side would of course create supportive opportunities for artists. I’ve seen far too many extremely talented artists dissolve into secondary or tertiary careers because they can’t afford their life’s calling full-time. It’s just so tough for creative people to make it, especially with Denver’s current studio rental and housing market. It’s always been a problem, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. So with the endless funds, I would construct an enormous building with several exhibition spaces (including low-cost co-ops), countless incredibly cheap studio spaces, affordable condos/townhomes, ongoing free professional-practices workshops, and loads of in-house grant, scholarship and other funding opportunities for creative people. The works!
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
More access to the arts in K-12 education. We all know the arts verifiably improve one’s academics, but it was always heartbreaking to me (when I taught) to have incoming freshmen reveal my course was their….first…art…class…ever. Earlier this year, Colorado was ranked first in theater, music and museum visits, so clearly we like the arts! Let’s just make sure they remain important in the classrooms.
Also, help build my compound! It’s becoming increasingly difficult for emerging artists to venture from art school into the professional gallery scene. We’re lucky because Denver does host a healthy number of co-op galleries, but overall survival these days can be heavily dependent upon Internet shows and sales. Unfortunately, emerging artists struggle to gain the needed credibility to enter into the professional arena and into established brick-and-mortar galleries.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I’m going to go with a more inclusive answer on this one and give accolades to all the K-12 art teachers and college professors out there who devote themselves wholeheartedly to ensuring survival of the arts. These artists and academics many times forgo aspects of their own personal successes by dedicating a large amount of their creative energy to students.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I’ve got a lot of research to do in regard to curating and scheduling shows at DIA for the next few years, so that will keep me busy! I’m looking forward to researching a much broader spectrum of art and artists on a local, national and international level, due to the diversity of exhibitions and mission of DIA.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2015?
I’m really liking Walter Barton’s work right now, with how he repurposes wood to create machines that reference and challenge children’s safe play. Sarah Wallace Scott is also someone who’s been doing important things in Denver for a while, and her environmental work is of intrigue to me. Overall, I’m happy that Denver has such a robust co-op gallery scene, greater than most other cities in the U.S., and really amazing privately owned galleries. Collectively, it’s the recipe for an art community Colorado can be proud of.
Learn more about art at DIA online.