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Donald Fodness, "E Thou (Burning Bush)," 2017, ink, colored pencil, gesso, gouache, acrylic paint, spray paint, graphite, collage, on Penthouse poster.
Donald Fodness, "E Thou (Burning Bush)," 2017, ink, colored pencil, gesso, gouache, acrylic paint, spray paint, graphite, collage, on Penthouse poster.
Courtesy of Donald Fodness

Colorado Creatives Redux: Donald Fodness

When we first showcased artist Donald Fodness in 2013, he was finishing a residency at RedLine, teaching at the University of Denver and trying his hand at being a leader in Denver’s art world and conducting experiments in collaboration. In the process, Fodness took a DIY approach to building community, opening the relaxed Showpen residency to promising artists and reaching out beyond Denver’s circle through Hyperlink, an exhibit exchange program with other cities — all while continuing his own medium-crossing fantastical practice. In the present, he’s also working to build a family and find more time to make art. Here’s how things are going for Fodness at this particular crossroads in his life.

Fodness on a November studio day in Colorado.
Fodness on a November studio day in Colorado.
Courtesy of Donald Fodness

Westword: How has your creative life grown or suffered since you last answered the 100CC questionnaire?

Donald Fodness: I am close to completing what is said to the be the largest outdoor art object in Boulder. This project has been over a year in the making, and the largest piece of my career, so I am still exploring new territory for myself.

I was looking back at my original Colorado Creatives questionnaire and the answers that I did for you six years ago, and noticed that for the question “What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?,” I answered:

“What I think would most help Denver right now is to create physical links to other cities that have similar confines. The Internet has allowed for the quick dissemination of ideas, and images, as well as to easily form connections. Oftentimes those connections cannot compare to face-to-face interactions and there is no substitute for experiencing art in person versus on the screen (unless it was intended for that format). The spatial distance between culture centers here in the West is both desirable and challenging. I have lived in, or spent significant time in, various locations in the Midwest and West and know that other cities in this region feel the same constraints.  It would behoove these cities, or exhibition opportunities in these cities, to create lasting partnerships that exchange artistic voices more regularly.”

Since then, I have helped form (along with a group of other really cool artists) a collective that does just that. It’s called Hyperlink.

I also started fleshing out concepts relating to utility in art and the tension between fine art and craft based on the level of apparent function. I used to make furniture, and the furniture has surfaced in my sculpture in a way that is more absurd and often negates its own function. I have been calling these forms “Dysfunctional Multi-tools.” I am currently making a treehouse and have become inspired to think about the concept of dysfunctional architecture for its sculptural potential. The “multi-tool” references apocalyptic survival in the face of dysfunctional systems in politics, economies, families, health, etc.

Donald Fodness, "Yard Hero (From the Man with the Golden Arm)." 2017, ceramic, wood, metal, glass, foam, glue, electric outlet, electric wire, three prong plug, lamp, fan, butterfly, night light, yard light, faucet, canteen, helmet, wig, garden rake, shovel, hoe, hand broom, cookie jar lid, mannequin hands, beaded necklaces, bungee chords, hooks, my lil pet shop heads, spray paint, acrylic paint, ink, glow in the dark plastic.
Donald Fodness, "Yard Hero (From the Man with the Golden Arm)." 2017, ceramic, wood, metal, glass, foam, glue, electric outlet, electric wire, three prong plug, lamp, fan, butterfly, night light, yard light, faucet, canteen, helmet, wig, garden rake, shovel, hoe, hand broom, cookie jar lid, mannequin hands, beaded necklaces, bungee chords, hooks, my lil pet shop heads, spray paint, acrylic paint, ink, glow in the dark plastic.
Courtesy of Donald Fodness

As a creative, what’s your vision for a more perfect Denver (or Colorado)?

More economic opportunities. If artists can afford to live more easily, they have money and time to put back into their art. More critical dialogue.

It’s a challenging time for artists in the metro area and on the Front Range, who are being priced out of the city by gentrification and rising rents. What can they do about it, short of leaving?

Band together with other artists and make opportunities for each other. We should be willing to live in unconventional ways. We are too programmed in how to live, make and experience art. I have been thinking a lot lately about how artists are the ones in society that can push how we live, but it seems that we are much more stifled than we want to admit. Even academic artists, who have the most potential to completely reformat how we experience art, often mimic the gallery retail space or museum when they publish their research. Nonprofit and artist-run spaces often follow the same format but have the potential to really turn things inside out. I bring this up because I think the same adherence to conventions applies to how we choose to live.

Donald Fodness. "Mr. and Mrs. Manyheads," 2017, bronze (containing original ceramic mugs inside core).
Donald Fodness. "Mr. and Mrs. Manyheads," 2017, bronze (containing original ceramic mugs inside core).
Courtesy of Donald Fodness

What’s your dream project?

Eternal study. Also casting Mick Jagger’s lips and using them in a sculpture.

What advice would you give a young hopeful in your field?

Study art history. Be persistent and pursue your vision even if others don't support it. Be open to criticism but don’t let it paralyze you. Be honest with yourself and others even if the truth is hard to say and/or hear. Be generous.

Donald Fodness, “Swag Emission,” 2016, bondo, plastic resin, acrylic paint, spray paint, mannequin arms, steel, birch plywood, Lee brand flannel shirt, boa, pheasant feathers, fake glitter peacock feathers, fake glitter leaves, fake flowers, flower, plexiglass, plaster, belt, felt, 20 gage shotgun, lenticular photograph in metal frame with printed wood finish, faux wood grain tape, led lamp, beer lamp, disco balls, blouse, concrete, wire, baked resin lips, netted fingerless gloves, magnets, thumbtacks, plastic eyes, superglue, star weight, mason string, eyelets, screws, marker, gesso, electrical chords, auxiliary jack, wigs, speakers, fuzzy dice, motorcycle mirror.
Donald Fodness, “Swag Emission,” 2016, bondo, plastic resin, acrylic paint, spray paint, mannequin arms, steel, birch plywood, Lee brand flannel shirt, boa, pheasant feathers, fake glitter peacock feathers, fake glitter leaves, fake flowers, flower, plexiglass, plaster, belt, felt, 20 gage shotgun, lenticular photograph in metal frame with printed wood finish, faux wood grain tape, led lamp, beer lamp, disco balls, blouse, concrete, wire, baked resin lips, netted fingerless gloves, magnets, thumbtacks, plastic eyes, superglue, star weight, mason string, eyelets, screws, marker, gesso, electrical chords, auxiliary jack, wigs, speakers, fuzzy dice, motorcycle mirror.
Courtesy of Donald Fodness

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

My fiancée, Daisy McGowan [formerly McConnell], is, of course, my favorite. I am impressed by the way she has challenged and contributed to the Colorado Springs community as a curator and provided opportunities for a wide range of artists. My life with her is rich in making, conversation and adventure for aesthetic experiences. I think it would be important for me to mention someone outside of a relationship like I have with Daisy, as well. This question is hard for me because I have a lot of favorites. I also want to recognize creatives that are not artists, so I will mention three people with different roles in the community.

Cortney Stell has shaped Denver as a curator and critical thinker. She consistently pushes boundaries and definitions with her exhibitions, and most recently with her Black Cube project.

I want to recognize the lifelong devotion to collecting challenging and thought-provoking art by Mark Addison. I am impressed by his willingness to seek new territory throughout his life. Mark, along with his wife, Polly, have supported major museums and collections throughout the state, providing a rich resource for the public.

Lately, as an artist, I have been really appreciating Dylan Scholinski. His story is impressive as well as all that he has accomplished — from writing a book to starting a suicide prevention program. I am interested in his explorations with collections, archives and daily ritual.

Production photo for Fodness's new installation-in-progress in Boulder.
Production photo for Fodness's new installation-in-progress in Boulder.
Courtesy of Donald Fodness

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I have a baby on the way. Over the next year, I want to enjoy and build meaningful relationships. I want to take time to reflect, experiment and digest my practice at a more manageable pace.

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Brooke Tomiello, Julio Alejandro, Kate Casanova, Cymon Padilla, Matt Swisher, Caitlin Goebel, Jeff Page, Arielle Myers.

Learn more about Donald Fodness at his website. 

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