Artist Lindsay Smith Gustave’s work celebrates the world’s small moments, often with great detail in drawings rendered with a light touch, or in delicately beaded natural forms placed like floral specimens inside amorphous glass vessels. Some mixed-media pieces have a diaphanous quality, as if caught between two worlds, shimmering with beadwork and thoughts on the mysterious ways in which we interact with nature. Smith Gustave took some time to come out from behind that gleaming curtain and share her in-between outlook on life. Here are her answers to the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Lindsay Smith Gustave: Studying art history allows me to draw on technique and ideas from those who have come before. To develop my own concepts and methods, I enjoy finding connections between artists in the continuum of human experience. My list of artists as muse and inspiration is constantly evolving, but instead of pinpointing one out of the many, in this moment the search for quiet has been my strongest muse. I am trying to find inspiration within myself as a mother and a person to find my clearest voice.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Right now I’m in need of enlightened exchanges over those that might fascinate and entertain. I prefer intimate interactions leading to meaningful conversations over raucous parties, so I would invite Georgia O’Keeffe, Walter Benjamin and Alan Watts for grateful hugs and a deep chat around a fire pit under a desert sunset. I have so many questions for each of them, and I just want to listen for a while.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
I feel like the Denver community recognizes that there is space for everyone. It’s a relatively small community, so I think everyone understands the importance of supporting one another, and that aspiring artists don’t have to fail for others to succeed. Denver is a unique atmosphere where there are numerous platforms for artistic expression, but it is not so saturated that there is limited space for new artists to develop their voice. However, I feel like open-exhibition opportunities are lacking. Although the number is growing, only a few alternative spaces exist. I admire the few artists I know who are resourceful and are creating those for themselves, but it seems like the more readily available these sorts of spaces for non-commercial exhibitions become, the richer the creative output for artists can be — for themselves and the community.
How about globally?
At this point it’s possibly an old argument, but the increasing presence of social media is a double-edged sword. Constant connectivity between artists via social media allows for broader perspectives and conversations being had through art globally, but it can be overwhelming and distracting at the same time. It also seems that exhibition organizers can fall into the trap of likability and making choices based on popularity: What will photograph best? Which trends will yield more followers? This is by no means the rule, just an observation of social media’s effect on every aspect of our lives.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I look at bucket lists as opportunities for growth. It seems that as I check certain items off my list, it keeps expanding. I have more art pilgrimages left on my list to sites in the American West, like Marfa, Texas, and the Lightning Field. Internationally, I’d like to visit Fondation Maeght, Fondazione Prada, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and La Sagrada Familia again once it’s completed, to name a few.
Travel has always been a source of inspiration, and there are still so many places I’d like to see — more of our national parks, Iceland, Greece, the U.K., Japan. However, I would also be remiss to not consider revisiting some of my favorite places with a fresh perspective. There is a lot left on my career bucket list, and I’m really looking forward to completing every one of them.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
I hope I’ve lived a life introspective and kind enough to come back as something sentient, but starting from scratch isn’t always a bad thing. I think it would be interesting to be a bubble. It’s a short-lived existence, but it would be incredible to be weightless for even just a little bit.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it. I’m a proud transplant, but when I came for undergrad I never thought I’d stay. My family and group of friends make it home. I’ve loved it, I’ve left it, and now I feel like I’m back for good. I’m excited about the change and growth of the art community here. There are so many creative, engaged and motivated people here in Denver advancing the art community. Denver’s quality of life and the surrounding landscape leads to a more well-rounded existence for myself and my family. That said, I strongly believe in the importance of travel to gain appreciation of other cultures and to broaden perspectives. One can, and should, make art anywhere — that’s the beauty of this vocation. At times I miss the presumed ease of access to art that I experienced living in New York, but there I always felt like an outsider. Denver is open and kind and willing to take risks.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There are so many people I respect, it's impossible to pick only one. I am so grateful to Kaitlyn Tucek and Marsha Mack for working with me, and am honored to show alongside them. They are incredibly talented, and I admire the intelligence and honesty in their work.
I appreciate the people who are interested in supporting the local artistic community, some of whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with, like David B. Smith and CultureHaus, and others whom I’ve gotten to know and regard, like Brooke Tomiello and Paul Keefe, curator and artist, respectively, and co-founders of Grand Opening Gallery. Their work with Grand Opening, as well as Brooke’s directorship at Lane Meyer Projects, is creating a much-needed space for creatives in Denver that provides a unique platform to engage in art. They have such passion for the field, and together their keen eyes and curatorial strengths move the Denver art scene forward by bringing compelling and intelligent work to the community.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I’m currently setting my intentions for 2019, which I think provides a more positive approach to accomplishments than resolutions: this includes new exhibition opportunities and possible residencies. My two-person exhibition at Alto Gallery, A Breath Before, with Kaitlyn Tucek, closed January 12, and I’m starting work on an exhibition with Marsha Mack that we began planning in early 2018.
I want to be a more active participant in local philanthropic organizations. I intend to continue to explore the beading and drawings I’ve been working with recently, but really want to push the limits of what they can do. Rebecca Solnit, Jean-Paul Sartre, Lucy Lippard and Marcel Proust are all on my bedside table right now. I’ll revisit old texts and explore new ideas; expand my practical knowledge and continue to grow.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Although they’re already Colorado Creatives, Corianne Wells and Kristopher Michael Wright of Odessa Denver are incredible assets to our community. They are generous advocates for artists, tireless in their search for meaningful exhibitions, and dedicated to their work on behalf of artists. They are interested in pushing Denver’s creative community forward, and people should take note.
The co-founders and the board of Tilt West have brought a much-needed source of critical dialogue to the Denver arts community. I hope the coming year brings more recognition of their efforts to foster a supportive environment for creatives from all backgrounds to share their ideas, where everyone can benefit from the important lesson that growth and change can occur when people are given the opportunity to speak freely about arts and culturally relevant topics.