Painter Margaret Neumann has cast an aura over Denver’s art scene for decades, first with Boulder’s counterculture Armory Group in the ’60s — some of whose members helped found the Drop City artist commune in southern Colorado — and later as a co-op stalwart at Spark and Pirate galleries. Long represented by Rule Gallery through its many phases, Neumann also had a role as a resident resource artist in the early days of RedLine. As the nonprofit art center continues to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Neumann returns to weigh in with What Lies Between, a major retrospective of her luminous paintings. We caught up with Neumann for a taste of her wisdom and insight.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Margaret Neumann: Francisco Goya, Philip Guston, Kiki Smith, Huma Bhabha, Clark Richert, John Fudge, Francesca Woodman, a video artist named Gelare Khohshgozaran that I saw at the Hammer Museum in their recent biennial. All of these artists share a deep sense of humanity and an exploration of the difficulties of being human.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, John Lennon. There are really so many people who interest me. I was a clinical social worker and practiced psychotherapy since before water was invented, and there is one thing that I learned: Everybody has an interesting story. You have to ask the right questions and then listen to the answers. There are no people who do not interest me. I pulled those three names out of my brain because I admire their ideas and their courage, but essentially, I believe that everyone has something to offer.
As an established artist, how would you size up the current climate in the local art world?
The art world, like the rest of the world’s, is flat. I see no hierarchical styles or emerging giants in our field. This is good, as it equalizes the playing field, but it is difficult inasmuch as there are no leading lights to follow.
How about globally?
Art mirrors the rest of society, so we are also in a time of flux, dealing with the expansion of cyber-reality and what it means to the average person. In film, I'm beginning to wonder if the importance of the actor is a thing of the past, because the use of virtual reality and computer backgrounds is changing the need for the individual.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I’ve done most of what I want to do, but there is also the next door that is slightly ajar.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Suzie Katz, Mark Fitzsimmons, Sarah Wallace Scott. These are artists who have some recognition, but I think that they are good enough to have more notice. Suzie is a landscape artist whose work has the beauty of Hockney and represents her interest in the world of nature, Mark represents his traumatic experience as a medic in the Iraq-Afghani wars, and Sarah Scott is a sculptor who works with animals — and who doesn’t like animals.
What Lies Between: A Margaret Neumann Retrospective runs through January 6 at RedLine, 2350 Arapahoe Street. Neumann will give an artist talk in the gallery on Friday, December 14, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Learn more at the RedLine website.