A relative newcomer to Denver, Marsha Mack, an artist who widely crosses mediums, wasted no time embedding herself into the city’s creative community and underground, as a professional and a participant. A citizen of the world with dialectic ideas about making art, Mack is an incoming RedLine resident this fall and has a steady exhibition schedule at spaces where experimentation is encouraged. Clearly, she’s Colorado Creative material. Here’s what she has to say about that.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Kim Jong Un! Is there a more twisted and interesting person? I can lose hours researching North Korea. From the hysterical funeral crying for Kim Jong Il, to the ghost supermarkets in Pyongyang, to the incredible annual mass gymnastics performances, I am riveted. There’s this eerily cheerful video of children playing guitar like little robots that sums up the fruits of totalitarianism — worth googling!
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
There are figures throughout history that I’d love to learn from or collaborate with, but if we’re talking party, then the obvious choices would be Anthony Bourdain (circa 2012), Anjelica Huston and Hito Stereyl. And Jemaine Clement.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
Since arriving in Denver I’ve had the strangest feeling that the people here and perhaps even the city itself are trying to help me achieve my goals. There is an optimism, particularly in the arts community, that is refreshing and welcoming to new ideas and faces.
That being said, I’ve been having discussions with other artist folk about the perceived shortage of opportunities in Denver that causes people to put themselves in less-than-desirable situations. This could be subjecting oneself to unethical labor situations, getting mixed up with shady art-consulting firms, or, in my case, withstanding significant frustration working with the owner of an exhibition space who seemingly operates on a skewed gender bias. I think the solution to these problems is, firstly, discussing them openly and honestly. Then the harder part is getting people to listen.
How about globally?
The problems mentioned above in the Denver arts community are reflected on a larger scale globally. Working in creative fields, particularly when dealing with galleries, museums, art fairs, etc., can be a wonderful but nebulous expanse for which there is no road map. Help people when you can and expose bad players — my current recipe for sustainability!
Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?
If you are aware that you are following a trend, stop what you’re doing. Being present and aware of the time we live in will naturally push aesthetic and concept. I suspect that people with and without a trained eye can tell when work is strained and can sense the nuance of subversion versus the laziness of trend. Good work should take you by surprise. This is impossible if it’s something we’ve already seen before.
One recurrence I love is the tendency for artists to span media. In my own practice, I move between materials and concepts, letting different techniques, textures and senses guide experience. While I do know artists who work exclusively in one medium, I feel there’s a tendency to wear many hats, to dabble and experiment. Specialization and mastery are important and should be valued, but there’s something about the willingness to invite failure and step out of one’s comfort zone that raises the stakes for me as both a viewer and a maker and continues to hold my interest.
What’s your dream project?
I’m not sure of the exact details at the moment, but any dream project would have to include travel to Southeast Asia, city-planning permits abroad and in Denver, and a fabrication team. In this fantasy I am a Black Cube Artist Fellow, and my international flight wouldn’t pollute the environment, and Democrats would have taken back the House and Senate.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
I’m already a dumpster-diver/snack-table creature, so perhaps a scavenger of some kind. Maybe a raven, because then I would be smart and without many predators. And I would be a harbinger of doom, which is metal.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it! I’ve moved around a lot over the past few years, between undergrad (San Francisco, California), graduate school (Syracuse, New York), post-grad fellowship (Los Angeles, California) and now Denver. What I’ve learned about skipping around is that your problems follow you everywhere. Be where you are, find solid friends, and begin the hard work of improving the place you live.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There isn’t just one. I am especially grateful and forever appreciating people who took early risks on me when I was new in town. That includes David, owner of David B. Smith Gallery, who has employed me as associate director for nearly two years, my curator angel and homegirl Brooke Tomiello and chiller and painter Paul Keefe, who put me in my first exhibition in Denver at Grand Opening, a living room/project space they run, and all my old studio mates at Flat Earth (formerly Leisure Gallery): Alex Ablola, Paul Keefe, Zach Reini and John Roemer.
My first solo, Miss Vietnam, at ATC DEN, opened October 5, with a closing reception and artist talk on October 27. Many, many sincere thanks to artist, tastemaker and gallery owner Laura Krudener! While I’ve finally gotten my sea legs in Denver, I am very much still new. I can’t wait for more firsts and to see this list grow!
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I feel very fortunate to have exhibitions and other opportunities coming up. First and foremost, I’ll be breaking in my new studio at RedLine, where in addition to art-making I’ll be trying to give back via their community volunteer programs. On October 12, Gendered Senses, a three-day pop-up extravaganza will happen at Georgia Art Space with Shayna Cohn, Carin Rodenborn and myself, curated by Alison Leedy. I’m also very much looking forward to a solo presentation at Lane Meyer Projects in April 2019, curated by Brooke Tomiello.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Matthew Pevear, whose photographs never cease to amaze me. He has a curious ability to find the sparkle on the mundane, adding humor and the technical refinement of a highly trained photographer. Matthew’s first Denver solo exhibition, curated by George Perez, will open January 2019 at BMoCA’s Macky Gallery as part of the Month of Photography.
Lindsay Smith Gustave’s patience, elegance and attention to detail come through in her stippled drawings and beaded sculptures. She is a great artist and thinker, and while our collaborative project Animal, Vegetable, Mineral has been postponed while we seek a new venue, you can see her two-person exhibition with Kaitlyn Tucek at Alto Gallery on December 6.
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Last but not least, Chris Bristow’s humor and skill take unpredictable forms in his imagined architectural depictions. His solo show No Place will feature nine new paints and three prints, and opens November 16 at Lane Meyer Projects.
Marsha Mack’s solo exhibition Miss Vietnam at ATC DEN, 3420 Larimer Street, runs through October 27, when Mack will give an artist talk at the closing reception. Details TBA on ATC DEN’s Facebook page.
Gendered Senses, with works by Shayna Cohn, Marsha Mack and Carin Rodenborn, opens Friday, October 12, with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. at Georgia Art Space, 952 Mariposa Street (enter from the alley) and remains open from noon to 3 p.m. daily October 13 and 14.
Keep up with Marsha Mack and her work online.