A poet, critical writer, visual artist, furniture designer and now curator, Joshua Ware fits into a polymath world of interdisciplinary Denver creatives who share ideas without boundaries. What’s it like to juggle multiple careers so freely? Ware parses his lifestyle by answering the 100CC questionnaire.
#1: Joshua Ware
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
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Joshua Ware: I’m not sure if I have a muse, per se. But I do have concepts, artists and materials that, at the moment, I find interesting. For instance, I’m enamored with the shaped canvases of Frank Stella and the manner in which they disrupt received notions of square or rectangular surfaces. Likewise, I’m fascinated by the objective qualities of paper. To this extent, I have a fondness for Mark Bradford and his painterly application of the material. Conceptually, I’m concentrating on how aesthetic tendencies inherited from minimalism (as well as Bauhaus and De Stijl) complicate the separation of high art and design. The divide, to my mind, is a reductive binary that would benefit from dissolution. Finally, I’m exploring a concept that I’ve termed "Urban Aggregate." In a nutshell, it focuses on the ways in which cityscapes both reinforce and challenge normative paradigms of thought, belief and aesthetics. Likewise, it attempts to foster community and examine the complex nexus of relationships within a particular city.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
To me, a parlor game sentiment suffuses this question — similar to a job interviewer asking, “What’s your biggest weakness?” So I’m going to swerve a little bit in my answer. I’d rather nerd out about craft and technique with creative individuals or brainstorm future projects while drinking a cocktail or beer on my front porch. Are you an artist, fabricator, writer or intellectual who enjoys getting into the weeds about your artistic or intellectual pursuits? If so, this is an open invitation to my house. E-mail me.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The issues facing the Denver creative community, I think, are rather well-documented, so my answer isn’t all that novel. But, obviously, the rising cost of living (particularly with regard to rental rates and available space) makes it difficult for artists who are not institutionally supported to survive. And those of us who labor away tend to live on the margins of poverty. In the long run, systemic neglect of broad-based support of and for local artists will affect the city negatively.
As for an affirmative aspect of Denver’s creative community? Well, to my mind, there are many talented individuals producing conceptually compelling and aesthetically beautiful works of art. There’s a reservoir of creative talent in this city within every mode, medium and discourse. Developing relationships with these individuals, whether personally or through their work, is a gratifying experience.
How about globally?
I could take a stab at this question. But most often people who make macro-level claims about topics speak from a very limited, thus ill-informed perspective. And they tend to sound like self-righteous assholes. I’ll pass on this one.
Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?
Whether or not a trend is worth following, I suppose, depends upon the specificities of the trend itself. Cat videos on Instagram, for example, are a trend that I love and one worth following. Although, at this point, cat videos may no longer be a trend; they may have, rather, woven their way into the very fabric of contemporary Western society.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?
Being an artist is an accomplishment in and of itself. Perhaps that reads as trite or cute or whatever. But living on the wrong side of forty and dedicating one’s life to a pursuit that isn’t particularly valued by mainstream culture is an achievement worth celebrating. Although it would be a better celebration with large piles of cash.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
To watch the movie Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
There are positive and negative aspects to Denver, just as there are positive and negative aspects to any city. But, generally speaking, I can be a pessimistic person, so oftentimes, I fall into the trap of wanting to “leave it.” I moved here in 2002, and the city of sixteen years ago seems unrecognizable to me now. And not in the ways I would like.
But I try hard not to succumb to despondency vis-à-vis the city and that into which it’s transformed. So I remind myself that I have life-long friends who live here and whom I see frequently. I remind myself of all the moments of beauty that I’ve experienced here during the past sixteen years. Regardless of how Denver changes, I know these people. I have these memories. And there will be more. To this extent, I love it.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
It would be a disservice to the vibrant creative community of Denver, as well as the state of Colorado, to limit myself to one person. Instead, I’ll offer the roster of artists contributing to an upcoming show I’m curating at Georgia Art Space on September 21: Suchitra Mattai, Diego Rodriguez-Warner, Sammy Lee, Sarah Bowling, Ashley Frazier, Eric Dallimore, Sueyeun Juliette Lee and Eric Baus. All of these artists and writers produce work that I find worthwhile. All of these artists deserve the recognition they have received and more.
Other artists in Denver (and Colorado) whose work, for various reasons, I enjoy are Pard Morrison, Amber Cobb, Esther Hernandez, Derrick Velasquez, Mario Zoots, Laura Shill, Peter Yumi, Kelton Osborn, Sommer Browning, Scott Young, Serena Chopra, Tim Earley, Daisy Patton, Anthony Garcia, Sandra Fettingis, Ray Tomasso and Theresa Anderson.
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What's on your agenda in the coming year?
As I mentioned above, I’m curating a show for Sommer Browning’s Georgia Art Space on Friday, September 21. The title of the show is Urban Aggregate, and it attends to the cityscape issues that I mentioned in a previous question. That same weekend, I’ll have a few pieces on display at Leon in conjunction with a Howl-inspired musical performance composed by Lee Hyla. During the month of December, I have a residency/show downtown titled Urban Aggregate at the Denver Theatre District’s Understudy space. In addition to freestanding sculptures and an audio component, I plan on sharing the incubator with Denver creatives as a free performance space. If you’re a dancer, filmmaker, musician, writer or performance artist, I’d love to host you for a day. Other than that, I’ve started building custom furniture. I’d like to continue fabricating usable but artistic household furnishings. I find it to be fulfilling. And, finally, I hope to continue writing art-related articles for Entropy magazine.
Urban Aggregate, curated by Joshua Ware, opens with a reception and sound performance by Eric Baus on Friday, September 21, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Georgia Art Space, in the garage at 952 Mariposa Street. The exhibit remains on view from noon to 5 p.m. September 22 and 23, and closes with another reception on Monday, September 24, from 7 to 10 p.m., with readings by Elisa Gabbert and Anna Moschovakis. Learn more online.
Learn more about Joshua Ware and his work online.