Art News

Molina Speaks on "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge" at Meow Wolf

Detail of "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge."
Detail of "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge." Kennedy Cottrell

There's a lot that's still unknown about Meow Wolf Denver, the massive new arts installation/venue constructed over the past two years at the intersection of West Colfax Avenue and Interstate 25 on the edge of Sun Valley. When will it open this fall? What will the installation be called? (The original in Santa Fe that reopened early this year is House of Eternal Return; the outpost that opened in Las Vegas in February and has been selling out ever since is Omega Mart.) And, above all, what have the hundred-some local artists been creating in the more than seventy spaces there?

With a host of non-disclosure agreements signed by everybody and their mother to preserve secrecy, the mystery remains. But we did get an authorized sneak-peek video of one of the pieces, a collaboration dubbed the "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge," on which Denver artist, poet, rapper, visionary and Westword MasterMind Molina Speaks worked with eighteen other creatives in various media, including muralist and painter Stevon Lucero, the lead visual artist on the project.

Here it is:

And we recently caught up with Molina Speaks to learn more.

Westword: How are things going with Meow Wolf?

Molina Speaks: We completed the physical install January through February, when it was still a raw, unfinished construction site. It was one of the most challenging spaces I have ever worked in. I learned a lot about infrastructure and built environments. I'm closing in on the final tech elements in the room. I'm excited to be done, and to experience our room within the context of the whole exhibit.

Walk me through your installation.

The "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge" grows out of Chicano consciousness and is informed by Toltec and Mexica worldviews. It bends past and future and blends the waking world with the dreaming world. The Lounge is a space for intergalactic travelers to land safely and dream about what is possible. Stevon Lucero is the lead visual artist. The room is centered around his concept of the Dreamer. I worked with Emily Swank of FannyPack Films, who edited a five-part, 53-minute film experience. And I worked with DJ Icewater, Diles and Felix Fast4Ward to create a ninety-minute soundtrack for the room that features our storytelling friends across the West. The room is a multi-sensory, multi-media experience.
click to enlarge Detail of "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge." - KENNEDY COTTRELL
Detail of "Indigenous Futurist Dreamscapes Lounge."
Kennedy Cottrell
We want people to think about the knowledge and historical contributions of indigenous people from around the world. More so, we want people to think about the future, and what it means to re-indigenize the planet. We want people to think about their connection to Mother Earth, and we want people to fall into their imaginations and dreams.

Talk about the significance of the project and the intergenerational collaboration you're working on. What does it mean to you?

Foremost, this project is a dedication to the meta-realist art of Stevon Lucero. That was the vision, to bring together the past and the future, which he does in his visual art. I had admired Stevon's work in many corners of the city. His art lives in many people's homes, including my own. His work belongs in the cultural nooks of our city, and it also belongs in one of the futurist wonders of the world. So when I saw a vision for a room at Meow Wolf Denver, I saw his art on the walls, and I saw myself in an apprentice role with him. It was a blessing to work alongside a master artist, to learn from him and paint alongside him. On the media end, my job was to make sure that the music and video elements were on par with his visual art. On the design end, off the walls, my job was to complement his art and to provide some subtle contrast.

We have lost intergenerational connection in our public spaces and in our creative venues. This is the reality in gentrified cities like Denver, and increasingly in rural areas. This is a permanent exhibit, and this is a legacy project, so for me it had to be intergenerational. Among the nineteen artists who contributed to the room, ages range from 22 to 71. And given the concept, it had to be multi-racial, multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-gendered. The familial and cultural origins of contributing artists span at least four continents. Everyone's unique style created a mestizo masterpiece that properly reflects humanity. What we created together is world-class art. So don't tell me it can't be done. You don't have to substitute or sacrifice substance or style to be authentically inclusive.

I want to acknowledge each creative who made this work possible: Stevon Lucero, Arlette Lucero, Rodney Sino-Cruz, Colin Diles Hazelbaker, Felix Ayodele, Emily Swank, Carlos Contreras, Ramon Gabrieloff-Parish, Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish, Kimberly Ming, Jasmine Sena Cuffee, Hakim Bellamy, Edwina Maben, Jamie Morgan, Shing02, Forrest Burke, Sergio Burrola and Andrea Dolter. Thank you for your contributions and your gifts.

What does the public have to look forward to?

Meow Wolf as a whole is a space for radical imagination and worlds converging. In our room, in particular, you're going to feel something, and it is going to move you. I see our room as a heart that pumps blood throughout the four floors of the exhibit. The public is gaining a massive spectacle, one that holds depth and meaning. I want to see Meow Wolf be successful, and within that, I want to see them follow through on their commitments to the public, to the artists, to the youth, and to the community of Sun Valley.

How do you see this project fitting in with the larger conversations going on in Denver's art scene?

Meow Wolf is a beast, and it is a negotiation. Art is about inspiring people, challenging society and creating space for conversations. Everybody's got an opinion and feeling about Meow Wolf, and that vibe will only grow once it opens. So Meow Wolf is doing its job, and I look forward to being part of those conversations.

At the beginning and end of it all, Stevon and I believe in the power of art to shift consciousness. We need a massive shift in how we think about, feel and experience the world. We need to remember why we are here. Politics and economics will not save humanity.  There is no savior for the ticking time bomb we have set. There is no magic legislation or economic package for the mess we are in. We need to rethink and redesign EVERYTHING. So any experience that helps to awaken us is a welcome experience. Through the radical imagination, we might figure out how to save ourselves.

Go to the Meow Wolf website for more it drops.
click to enlarge Molina Speaks is speaking out. - RIC URRUTIA
Molina Speaks is speaking out.
Ric Urrutia
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris