Cal Duran creates folk art on steroids, bowing to the ancient traditions of Mexico and the Southwest and conjuring the souls of ancestors in murals and installations of clay and papier-mâché. With Día de los Muertos right around the corner, Duran is in the thick of his element, and this is the perfect time for Denver to get to know him better, via the 100CC questionnaire.
Cal Duran: My creative muse is my indigenous ancestors. The makers of my past blood flow through me. I channel the artistans, craft-makers, mud-dwellers, the star-makers, dream-weavers and the earth-brothers — the ones who paved the way and created the path. Those spirits are my muse forever.
Frida Kahlo. She spoke her truth through art; it was her therapy, the place where she could embrace her pain and throw it up into the art universe. I wanna give her a hug and tell her thank you for being forever existing.
My Grandma. I wanna say sorry for being afraid, and I wanna make tortillas with her and bake a cake with gold sprinkles.
Betty Boop. She inspires me to always laugh at myself and to be wild.
I am part of a local nonprofit called ReCreative Denver — a studio, makerspace and workshop outlet at 765 Santa Fe Drive that also recycles reclaimed art supplies.
Being around other artists inspires me to grow, listen, communicate collaboratively and learn new things.
My least favorite thing is when artists are not willing to learn from or open up to others. I understand the ownership part, but something way more special and magical happens when you are open to seeing how amazing a piece of art would be if you'd taken the time to open and let an extra eye — or a lot of eyes — help, share and grow in the process.
I think trends are just past ideas resurfacing and turning into new ones. A trend is what's just popular because someone said so.
I wait tables and serve pancakes and milkshakes at a 24-hour diner.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I want to go to India to learn more about art and to see what the sky looks like there.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as a creative?
Last year, a friend of mine, fellow artist Danette Montoya, asked me to assist her in a Día de los Muertos installation project on the fourth floor of the Denver Art Museum, in the pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial galleries.
We spent several months visioning and creating this installation, and what moved me most was to honor and to be in the same space, for so long, with the art of ancestors. To honor the ancient artists before me was something I was blessed to do.
I am a native Coloradan. Denver will always be a home town, and it’s given me a lot of opportunities. It is growing in many ways, and as it does, I sincerely hope people hold on to traditional culture and community as much as they can. We don't want to lose that!
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Danette Montoya. She inspires me to be a better human and artist — to listen to my inner spirit and translate what’s in my soul. Her ideas are beyond this realm. She’s a medicine woman, an artist and a magic maker. I'm glad I met her.
I will be making like crazy! I have a show with Danette up in Boulder at the Dairy Center. It will be an installation altar for their Día de los Muertos-inspired exhibit. And in January, I will be a sculpture-demo artist at the Denver Art Museum.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Julio Alejandro! A mixed-media artist. He speaks his truth through his work. A collector and a cool human.
In conjunction with the exhibit Saber Acomodar, which brings the work of Jalisco, Mexico’s master artisans to MCA Denver beginning September 13, Cal Duran is creating an altar installation in the museum’s entryway, which will be on view throughout the show’s run through January 21. You can also catch Duran at work on a mural at the Westwood Chile Fest, 2 to 9 p.m. September 16, at the Westwood Food Cooperative, 3738 Morrison Road, and he’ll be collaborating on an installation with Danette Montoya for Spiritual Dimensions, opening at the Dairy Arts Center on October 27. See more work by Cal Duran on Instagram.