Artist Mark Brasuell came to Denver in 1987 by way of Roscoe, Texas, looking for greener pastures and a big-city arts milieu. A co-op booster and co-founder of Edge Gallery, Brasuell is now a member of Spark Gallery, and also recently mounted a solo show at Talk Gallery in Englewood. As much as he identifies as a working artist, he’s also out and active in the LGBTQ community. The resulting cross-pollination was the inspiration behind Lavender Mist: Gay Men in Contemporary Colorado Art, an exhibition he curated with Westword art historian and critic Michael Paglia.
The fruition of Brasuell’s longtime dream to shine a light on gay contributions to the art world at large, Lavender Mist was recently installed at the currently closed McNichols Building, and languishes unseen until the building is ready to reopen.
But that doesn’t stop this artist from looking forward to sharing the aims of the show before the summer is over. While Brasuell’s excited for people to see Lavender Mist, he’s already on to the next stage, which he discusses while answering the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
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Mark Brasuell: I use my own personal experience as my muse. To quote Robert Ashley, the famous composer of the television opera Perfect Lives, "I want to tell you something about my life.” I am from a very small town in Texas, and I grew up in a very limited creative space, so I am all about "Let's push this”— how far can I go? As far as artistic inspirations go, I admire Jackson Pollack, Stuart Davis, Kenneth Noland, TeamLab from Japan, Franz Klein, Robert Mapplethorpe and Larry Kramer.
Once I got out of Texas, I became myself. I bonded with others like me, and I found my family, my tribe, my people. I am unapologetic about my life, my sexuality and my interest in equality for all gay people.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party?
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best thing is the enthusiasm, the sheer will of some artists to create work that has never been seen before without a filter — you just don't see that in other cities. The worst is complacency. I see many artists doing the same thing over and over. I try to change with every show. You still know it's me, but I don't repeat.
How about globally?
In terms of political art and activism, I was very involved in the AIDS movement and have had a very political early career, and the lengths to which artists are pushing themselves is very engaging. I remember putting a piece in a political show in the ’90s that was a picture of Magic Johnson, who had just come out with the fact that he had AIDS. I posted a pic of him with the caption, "Thank God he is not gay,” because I knew that no one would care about AIDS until straight people started to die.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I believe that we need to act globally to create equality for everyone. We need to create work that not only belongs in a gallery, but is also available through other avenues, such as social media, social action and engagement.
What’s your dream project?
I just helped create Lavender Mist, Gay Men in Contemporary Colorado Art , and I would still love to do a multi-level show that includes all the letters in LGBTQIA. It is actually in the beginning stages, but I can't talk too much about it, other than to say that it would include multiple venues, including museums. And of course (obligatory), I’d love to have a one-person show at MOMA.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I moved here because I love the mountains and the city. Honestly, the thing that is killing me is the traffic, hands down. I was pondering moving to the mountains, but if I didn't live here, it would be in the Pacific Northwest. I almost went to Washington University. I wanted to live in places that are beautiful and green. Denver, when I came here in 1987, was a different animal, but you know everything grows, and that's fine, too.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I really dig Peter Strange Yumi. He’s innovative, creative and just a funky dude — a very kooky and fun person, and an incredible artist.
What's on your agenda now and in the coming year?
Michael Paglia and I have mounted Lavender Mist, one of the first shows ever featuring gay men in art in Colorado. We will probably have a soft opening later with limited viewings. We’d like to do a Facebook Live broadcast, and possibly a panel discussion with the hopes of having a hard opening sometime in August. Also included in this historic show are several seminal Colorado artists who have passed: Dale Chisman, Wes Kennedy, John Haeseler and Roger Beltrami. Both Wes and Roger succumbed to complications from AIDS.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
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I really think it's going to be a multimedia artist who is maybe dabbling in political views and stances. The environment now — with COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and also the despicable president — is ripe for protest.
The people I really loved dabble in old-school modernist art, but I'm a big fan of people who are changing the art scene and doing things I've never seen before, like pop-ups, garage galleries and art on the streets.
Lavender Mist is installed at the McNichols Building, 141 West Colfax Avenue in Civic Center Park, through August 20. The building is currently not open to the public; learn more about the exhibition and keep up with news about future viewing opportunities online.