Frank Kwiatkowski defines himself through the lens of his Type 1 diabetes, a condition that rules his life, his DIY outlook and his politics. An activist for patients’ rights and other grassroots causes, Kwiatkowski prints commentary on the realities of living with diabetes as a guerrilla wheat-paster and master of the conecut print – a twist on linoleum-print making using a more streetwise carving material: the inside surface of pilfered orange traffic cones. Using this chosen medium, he carves modern images reminiscent of ’30s leftist propaganda posters, and pastes his pieces on dumpsters and city walls. Now he's begun working in film, as well. A pedicab driver when he isn’t making and placing art, Kwiatkowski serves as a member of mayoral candidate Kalyn Heffernan’s campaign team.
Kwiatkowski took some time from his life in the underground to answer the Colorado Creatives questionnaire. Hop in and let him take you on a ride through his life.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Frank Kwiatkowski: Type 1 diabetes is my muse. It's been with me since 1982.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
I'd take Antonin Artaud, Patti Smith and Johnny Rotten. Artaud wrote for the sick and mentally ill. He suffered from opiate addiction. As a psychiatric patient, he was treated with insulin shock therapy and wrote about its horrors. Patti Smith for her work ethic, the era she was in — and she got to sleep with Robert Mapplethorpe. Plus, she lived in NYC when it was viable. I'd take Johnny Rotten as a voice of rage in class warfare and as a performance artist. Artaud and Rotten both suffered from meningitis.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
If Denver dismantled capitalism, art would have an easier go at it. Same with Colorado.
What else needs to be fixed in this town?
Free mass transit. Outlaw cars. We'll see who can adapt, and we might end some wars and help the environment. Sterilize everybody. Elect Kalyn Heffernan.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I'm working on three films: Insulin Uprising, Miscalculations Kill and Guerrilla Gang. I still have to edit the films and shoot more footage. My deadline for Insulin Uprising is 2021 (the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of insulin). I'll keep carving and pressing conecuts.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver. I was born and raised here, have remained here and have been productive here. I have played the system, and I have Medicaid. I'm self-employed and I earn just enough. I have visited NYC, Chicago and larger cities, and they're bigger, but still capitalist nightmares. I'll leave Denver when I'm forced out.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
My favorite Colorado creative is the class-warfare photographer Tomas Angel Melchor. It's about loyalty, dependability, collaboration.
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What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I just finished a bicycle-themed art show with Logan Rainard at Cabal Gallery. I'll continue to press prints for Kalyn Heffernan's mayoral campaign through April. I'll edit and shoot films. I'm in a diabetes research study for a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Come August, I'll be looking at the twenty-year anniversary of the conecut. I already have a plate drawn up to commemorate the occasion. It might be small and insignificant, but I'm the father of the conecut.
Learn more about Frank Kwiatkowski and the art of the conecut at his website or on Facebook.