Still from Mark Fitzsimmons's video, "A Finely Frocked Fleece."
Still from Mark Fitzsimmons's video, "A Finely Frocked Fleece."
Mark Fitzsimmons

Colorado Creatives: Mark Fitzsimmons

Recent Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design grad Mark Fitzsimmons chose art school after a stint in the Army as a medic in Iraq and Afghanistan. But following his muse offered Fitzsimmons more than instruction. He also found a raw avenue of expression in performance within a multidisciplinary practice that includes painting and installation work — a way to work through and explain the unexplainable fallout from his military service. Here’s his take on the highs and lows of life in between.

Mark Fitzsimmons is working things out as an artist.
Mark Fitzsimmons is working things out as an artist.
Photo by Ted Heron

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

Republicans. A distinction between those elected and their supporters should be made. While many private citizens that still affiliate with the party share their tendencies, most probably quit paying attention between elections. This is a fascination with grandstanding politicians and their engaged supporters.

The term "conservative" no longer seems to apply to the party of Lincoln. Over the years, I’ve watched the political rhetoric turn more venomous and their denials of misconduct become more ludicrous. If you want to know what actions they are taking, listen to what activities they blame on Democrats. In a conversation with those I disagree with, their ideas have become completely immune to logic or reason. Every day, it's a new slack-jawed befuddlement for me. Once you move past the infuriating and condescending manner in which they conduct themselves, it is a marvel the amount of mental gymnastics they must play to maintain the moral high ground while advocating for human-rights abuses.

Mark Fitzsimmons, “Trying to Find Daylight With a Shovel,” 2018, diptych, enamel and acrylic on panel.
Mark Fitzsimmons, “Trying to Find Daylight With a Shovel,” 2018, diptych, enamel and acrylic on panel.
Mark Fitzsimmons

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?

My mother, father and sister. My father and sister, Tim and Erin, are incredibly important to me. We speak several times a week. My mother, Kris, passed when I was twelve, and I have only two memories that even relate to her. I’ve had many moments that led to me thinking about calling her. Not like, “I wish I could call Mom,” but a “Oh, I should call my mom.” It’ll be a totally dissociative moment, as if she’s still been around for the past 23 years. If only I could get those three in a room to reminisce, catch up on life’s achievements and failures, and to get the advice that only my mother could give.

Mark Fitzsimmons, "Illicit Patriotism," performance.
Mark Fitzsimmons, "Illicit Patriotism," performance.
Zach Bares-Fagg and Menne Photo

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

Its willingness to accept new people. I came here three years ago, and despite my flaws, it has been an exceedingly warm reception.

The worst is the same in every field: gate-keeping. Some people need to be kicked out, most need to be let in, and the former is rare. Letting people join our conversations can only make them better.

How about globally?

Still gate-keeping.

Mark Fitzsimmons, "Hard Comforts," installation, Dateline Gallery.EXPAND
Mark Fitzsimmons, "Hard Comforts," installation, Dateline Gallery.
Mark Fitzsimmons

Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?

Trends are worth following in so far as you need to know what rules to break. One thing that I would love to be able to do as an artist is absurdity. There was a trio of performances within Kenzie Sitterud’s recent installation, The Bedroom, at 808 Projects. In Ondine Geary’s performance, a blender (for an organic smoothie) and popcorn maker were operated through Kegel exercises, and Kate Speer danced atop an American flag while chocking down a mayo-and-half-a-loaf-of-white-bread sandwich in an as-yet-to-be-titled work. We need more work that is pointed in calling out the ridiculous things that happen when we deny self-evident truths.

What’s your dream project?

I want to perform in the U.S. Capitol Building’s Grand Rotunda. I want my work to speak outside the art world. By performing in the seat of power, I could potentially affect, if not annoy, lawmakers. One of my works, “Hard Comforts,” 2018, consisted of me sewing together pillows, calling military cadence songs and wearing my combat-duty uniform. But it needs a longer format to achieve its actual import. As it stands, it has about a fifteen-minute run time. My thought is to extend that by six to eight weeks. The physical demand of singing and sewing would take its toll, the growth of the pillow pile would be vast, and they would be unable to ignore the effects of their decisions.

Mark Fitzsimmons, “After 3 rounds hit the sandbags in front of him, he began to sing ‘Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie,’” charcoal on cardboard.
Mark Fitzsimmons, “After 3 rounds hit the sandbags in front of him, he began to sing ‘Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie,’” charcoal on cardboard.
Mark Fitzsimmons

If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?

Hopefully, myself. Not because of any sense of narcissism — quite the opposite — but to try and do better for those around me. I’m a far from perfect human, and every person I’ve met, or will meet, deserves more from me.

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

Love it. I’ve lived all over the world and under all sorts of conditions. It has its glaring flaws (housing, treatment of the homeless), but it is the first place that has made me feel at home in many, many years.

Mark Fitzsimmons, “A Persistent Fugue State,” 2018, enamel and acrylic on panel.
Mark Fitzsimmons, “A Persistent Fugue State,” 2018, enamel and acrylic on panel.
Mark Fitzsimmons

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

There are so many incredible and talented creatives here! I can’t choose a favorite, but I can say who is influencing me the most: Joseph Coniff. Working at Rule Gallery, I see so much great artwork, but his placed a shift on my 2-D and 3-D works. His works are so considered. My methodology has always been “plan for it to just work out,” and looking at his works caused me to measure the degree to which I can wing it.

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

A lot. Applying to grad schools, residencies and shows. There are some big things on the horizon that feel a little too early to talk about, but the next six months feel very, very exciting. I’ve asked many art-world favors and hope to be able to pay as many of them back as possible.

Mark Fitzsimmons, “Scripta Terra,” performance piece.
Mark Fitzsimmons, “Scripta Terra,” performance piece.
Mark Fitzsimmons

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

This project has covered so many of the people I respect and call friends. You can’t go too far in Denver without bumping into someone who is trying to push their concepts and craft. What feels most important are community-builders like Corianne Wells and Kristopher Michael Wright at Odessa. Creating a platform for artists to be heard through Creatives at Roundish Tables, their website, or their brick-and-mortar space at 430 Sante Fe Drive. They work very hard to find and promote artists.

See work by Rowdy Dugan, Mark Fitzsimmons, Erica Green, Renluka Maharaj and Shelby Rah in Frame of Reference, running through November 10 at Rule Gallery, 530 Santa Fe Drive. Learn more online.

Keep up with Mark Fitzsimmons and his work on his Instagram page.

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