Justin Maes can’t seem to do just one thing. When he’s not making art, the multidisciplinary artist/entrepreneur, once an instructor at the University of Wisconsin Madison, is a professional framer, business-owner and small-business booster; a gallerist giving space to fellow Denver artists, many of them DIY and under the radar; and a musician recording on his own label under various handles – the Humming Bird, Diamond Cluster Hustler and Sugar-Free. Also, he's a dedicated Bob Ross fan. What’s next? Maes took time out from his convoluted schedule to add answering the 100CC questionnaire to his ongoing resume. Read on!
Justin Maes: The what would be: life, love, loss, death and every other possible human experience/emotion that is a part of the human existence. Experiences turn into memories, and as they accumulate, they become the building blocks that create the architecture of our lives and our shared experience of this three-dimensional reality. My life is the art project. I am the medium. My work is the drive-through pharmacy from which the world receives its prescription. The who: everybody and everyone, especially my Buddy – she’s the best!
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?
My Tia Becca (my aunt, deceased): The best listener and one of the most beautiful souls.
Miguel Pena (a best friend and an artist, deceased): I miss him and his friendship so much. Nobody knows how to party like Miguelito!
E.C. Cunningham (a best friend, professor, mentor, artist): I would love to thank him, now that I’m a man.
The best thing about the creative community in my field, and in all fields, is that they exist. Creative communities are essential to every civilization. Creative communities provide necessary counterculture to a society/system that is predominantly corporate by nature. As the founder and current director of the Hideout, an art gallery, music venue/recording studio, and a collective of four resident artists, I want to give 100 percent of my energy to the artists that I work with, teach them about the business and set them up for success. Because I wear a lot of hats and juggle a lot of things, I find myself wishing I had more time to offer to the collective and to individuals. So, not having enough time to offer is the worst thing for me.
At large, I enjoy the diversity of Denver’s creative community. However, I find it to be somewhat exclusive, which is not a good thing in my opinion. I believe inclusiveness is better.
What made you pick up a paint brush in the first place?
Bob Ross. I used to watch his show every morning as a child, and I remember admiring his ability to manifest images within his mind and bring them into reality. He used nothing but his imagination, pigments, a couple of simple tools and his eye-hand coordination. Bob Ross was my introduction into magic, illusion and the manipulation of material. I perceived him as a wizard, and now, I know he was. I picked up a paintbrush because I had something to say. I wanted to be heard.
In one word: Saturated. Saturated with talent. Saturated with mediocracy. Saturated with similarity. Saturated with looky-loos. Saturated with uneducated buyers. Saturated with bad taste. Saturated with artists.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as a creative?
Receiving my MFA was great, and teaching college was wonderful. Getting invited to be a visiting artist and guest lecturer at universities was amazing. Running my own business/brand is the best, and building the Sugar Water Music label was so much fun. But nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishment I received from my parents when they used a magnet to hang one of my first drawings up on the refrigerator. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.
To quote Al Pacino in Scarface, “The world, Chico. And everything in it.” LOL. In all honesty, I’d like to use my work to see the world and to promote positivity. The truth is, once I discovered my star, there’s only been one thing on my bucket list, and that’s to catch it. I’m blasting off, I’m well on my way, and I’m not looking back when I’m passing Mars.
Denver, love it or leave it?
Both. I stay in Denver because of my friends and family. I love the climate, and it’s the perfect place to seek inspiration from both urban environments as well as the wilderness. Reasons to leave: I’d rather not share. I’m here to be close to the ones I love.
Thomas Scharfenberg. He’s been my fave. Ever since we became best friends back in Mr. Abrams’s third-grade classroom. It's been a pleasure to watch Thom grow and blossom into a flower of success over the years. I am so proud of him and all of his accomplishments, and I’m happy to have several of his pieces hanging in my shop and in my gallery. I love you, Thommy Boy – thank you for being you and sharing your heart and your art.
What’s your agenda in the coming year?
More love, more art, more music, and better love, better art, better music. This coming year is going to be huge and bring with it lots of exciting new things. I look forward most of all to connecting and collaborating with as many new creative individuals as I can this coming year— together we make it happen.
My business, ABC Custom Framing, will be busy serving the Denver area with care and the highest-quality custom framing. We preserve memories and priceless works in addition to helping new businesses and homeowners look their best. I’m excited to start Second Saturdays on the South Side every other month at the Hideout, my art gallery and creative space located in the basement of ABC. Second Saturday will include contemporary art and music. My brand Sugar Water will be launching a small line of clothing apparel, and I am especially excited for the official launch of the Sugar Water Music label. Keep your ears tuned for the sweet sound of life’s nectar: Sugar Water Music. Visually, I’m looking forward to a residency in Dallas, followed by a solo exhibition at the Hideout. “F*** a vacay, I feel better at work.”
John Altamirano, aka NoKlu of NoKlu Photography. Johnny is such beautiful person with wonderful energy and amazing talent. I value his vision, and I love collaborating on projects with him.
Saturation: Another Art Show, curated by Justin Maes with works by local and national artists Eric Anderson, Dan Becker, Anthony Bruce-Roark, Justin Maes, Samuel Mata, Sam Prien and Ivy Whitehead, opens on Saturday, August 11, with a reception from 7 to 1 p.m. at Hideout Gallery, in the basement at ABC Custom Framing, 2550 South Colorado Boulevard.
Learn more about Justin Maes and his various projects on Instagram: @sugar_water_art @sugar_water_music @abc_custom_framing