Artist couple Ben Kinsley and Jessica Langley might be a gift from the heavens to Colorado’s art community since landing in Colorado Springs, where Kinsley now teaches at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. As artists, they are cross-disciplinary, with international cred and no fear of new conceptual territories; as curators, they’ve turned their front yard into a site-specific gallery, and now plan to continue with new yard installations as recipients of RedLine’s new INSITE grant program, a high-stakes game-changer for local artists funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
We invited Kinsley and Langley to co-answer the Colorado Creatives questionnaire, and the answers that follow are the first in a series showcasing a whole constellation of INSITE grantees.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Ben Kinsley and Jessica Langley: Ben’s artistic interests have always been around the exploration of context and situating/creating art experiences outside of traditional art venues. When we were living in Queens, New York, Jessica was a founder of an artist-run gallery. Like many artist-run galleries in NYC these days, it modeled the exhibition space after the white cube. After rising rents forced them out of their physical location, she was inspired to start a different type of program — one that took advantage of an underutilized space that she already had access to. From May 2015 until January 2017 she curated "The Stephen and George Laundry Line," which presented month-long site-specific installations by artists on our third-floor laundry line.
SGLL and the Yard take inspiration from projects like Michelle Grabner’s gallery The Suburban, which operates in a suburban house outside of Chicago (later relocated to Milwaukee), well outside the typical commercial, urban art center; Lauren Adams’s Cosign Projects, which presented artworks on a flagpole on her rowhouse in St. Louis; Jon Rubin’s Conflict Kitchen, which serves food from countries the U.S. is in conflict with; Last Billboard, which presents text-based work on a billboard atop a building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and La Galería de Comercio, which was a collectively operated site in which temporary, clandestine projects would occur on a specific street corner in Mexico City.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Harry Smith: Also seems like a good party influence. We could project his experimental abstract films and have him DJ from his vast record collection. He could teach us some string games, and we could tell him dirty jokes.
Rebecca Solnit: Her writing has inspired both of us to think about the ways we interact with our surroundings and our built environments. We’d love to have a light conversation with her about the role of art in the Anthropocene and late-stage capitalism.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
In Colorado Springs, people turn up for events and are very supportive of one another. There’s energy here, and people have ideas and motivation to make new things happen. There are lots of house shows (art, music, poetry) and events at alternative venues around town. The worst part is the provincialism, which we’ve experienced in many smaller cities that we’ve lived in.
How about globally?
Globally, we see the conversations within the art world focusing more on issues surrounding inclusivity and intersectionality. That said, it’s still not being implemented on the necessary scale. And due to the global art world being so intertwined with the market/corporate funding, we don’t see enough risks being taken to engage with complicated and provocative ideas.
Explain your INSITE project and how you will be rolling it out.
The Yard is a project space and site for contemporary public art that we run in our front yard in the Divine Redeemer neighborhood of Colorado Springs. We are interested in non-institutional, non-corporate public art and how domestic spaces such as front lawns contain both public and private areas which give opportunities to experience expressions of invention, creativity, care or neglect. The artists have self-funded the first seven installations. With the INSITE fund, we will be able to commission (and pay artist stipends) for a year of site-specific installations by four artists (regional, national and international). Installations will rotate quarterly and are open to the public 24/7. Our first installation of 2020 will be by Denver-based artist Marsha Mack and on view from January 11 through March 15.
Colorado Springs, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
We moved to Colorado Springs in fall of 2017 because Ben was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at UCCS. So the job keeps us here. But Colorado has really grown on us, and while we miss the culture and diversity of larger cities we’ve lived in, our quality of life has improved substantially. We are also both amateur mycologists, and the mountains of Colorado are a special place for mushrooms.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Cortney Stell’s curatorial approach to Black Cube, a nomadic art museum, is really exciting. Artists are commissioned to create site-specific projects in a variety of locations and contexts such as billboards, temporary monuments, kiosks, flagpoles, inside cars, etc. It is also one of the few curatorial projects in Colorado that pays artists according to W.A.G.E.
Noel Black, poet, writer and radio producer, had a really great podcast that aired on KRCC in Colorado Springs called Wish We Were Here. It is beautifully crafted and tells unbelievable true stories from Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. It has been a really great way for us to learn about the interesting and strange place we now live. Noel is currently producing a new, great podcast about Colorado called Lost Highways through History Colorado. Look it up and listen!
We also recently met Calvin Seibert. Calvin makes incredible modernist, architectural sandcastles. He is from New York City but recently relocated to Denver. We met him once, years ago, on the beach in New York as he was in the midst of one of his constructions. Excited to see how he reorients to the Colorado landscape!
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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In addition to the Yard, we both have our individual studio practices. Ben has work in the show Mystical Logical at LUMP in Raleigh, North Carolina opening on November 1. Jessica and Ben work collaboratively (along with Jerstin Crosby) on an ongoing project called Janks Archive and produce a podcast called Don’t Spit Can’t Swim. We hope to release more episodes this year. Jessica will be presenting at Black Cube’s “Talk With Your Mouth Full” brunch series in March 2020.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Bradley Benedetti. Keep an eye out for upcoming shows in 2020!