Now Showing: Artists Viviane Le Courtois and Charlie Boots

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For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide (you'll find it tucked into our September 26 issue), we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. Today, we'll hear from Denver artists Viviane Le Courtois and Charlie Boots.

See also: Now Showing: Mona Lucero and Kotomi Yoshida on fashion

Viviane Le Courtois, fine artist.

A thinker as well as an artist, Viviane Le Courtois grows her performances and installations from the roots up, always examining our relationship to the earth and how we are all part of a perpetual process of growth and decay. Her work is often a product of community and human give-and-take: moments when bread is broken with others or built on a framework of donated clothing...or even tumbleweeds; her sense of community also shines through in her job managing youth-arts programs at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

It seems that the Denver art scene is getting better, but it still does very, very rarely appear on the national/international art scene in reviews and publications. There are lots of venues and, in my opinion, better artists and venues than in many other cities. Unfortunately, it is still extremely difficult to sell any work of art or make a living as an artist in Denver.

What could be done to improve the scene?

Colorado needs grants for artists at the state level. Grants to make art, not just grants to teach or work with the community. We also need good contemporary art critics who can send reviews to national and international magazines. Galleries also need to be more selective and not show whatever comes to their doors. It is not because something sells that you should show it. This would result in a better scene, especially in several spaces on Santa Fe, where I have seen a lot of mediocre art. Exhibitions/events such as the Biennial of the Americas and other city events were very poorly planned this year. It's sad that Denver cannot plan more in advance or/and get more funding for visual arts.

The art scene does not need to become a party scene. Santa Fe already has become that, and the art quality is very low. Food trucks are now more interesting than the works, apparently. RiNo has become a party scene, and this will chase all of the good artists out of the neighborhood soon.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

Life, travel encounters, food, chance, the transformation of objects, thoughts when I walk around. People's obsessions and behaviors have also inspired me on many levels, everywhere I go. Discussions and interactions with other interesting individuals.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

That is always a hard one: I have not seen too many works lately that made me think. Here are a few: Justin Beard, Alvin Gregorio, Dmitri Obergfell, Sarah Scott, the M12 Collective and Adam Milner.

Visit Vivian Le Courtois online for more information.

Continue reading for our Q&A with Charlie Boots. Charlie Boots, student and fine artist.

Charlie Boots is still a student, but a young man with clear talent and a lot to say and think about in his journey to becoming an artist. His summer stint as a Powerhaüs Studio PAIR resident, with artist mentors and free studio space for three months, has helped put it all in perspective, though, and it's fair to say that Charlie Boots is well on his way.

What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

Since I'm predominantly a painter, I consider painting to be my field. The trends I am currently seeing in painting indicate to me that there is a push to expand past what has been considered traditionally acceptable in Denver. Our identity on a national scale includes far too many cowboys and Midwestern landscapes. Not that these are bad topics, but I think they can be limiting tropes when you consider how expectations of consumers of art create economic constraints. I believe that expectations for a stereotypical Midwest make anything more innovative economically dangerous for painters. A painter risks something when s/he does something more challenging. Still, I'm proud of people who take on that challenge. One of the faculty members of Metro State, Phillip Faulkner, recently had a show at Anthology Fine Art on Santa Fe that included extremely interesting paintings, some combined with new media. I'm also on record as appreciating much of the work of Xi Zhang. 

Concerning the current scene in general, I see that same internal push among all artists to innovate. Efforts in digital and instillation art have been pretty predominant. I'm especially interested in efforts to marry these genres with traditional mediums. I saw a show at Ice Cube Gallery with work by Sarah Rockett, and I dug how she bridged drawing and sculpture with installation. I like that we aren't so avant-garde here to ignore traditional techniques and mediums. 

What could be done to improve the scene?

I'm no expert, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Galleries that have been known to consider high head counts at First Friday events as "successful" need to cut that out. Reality is that (gallery) art is not held in high regard in the general culture of our city. Art culture here is less like football culture and more like Star Trek culture. Instead of trying to force a change that won't happen, galleries need to focus on getting potential collectors in the doors. Collectors buy work and remember artists, as opposed to random people who drop in for chips and beer. I'll bet you could give a survey to random attendees of First Friday events asking them what artists they viewed that evening and almost nobody would be able to drop a single name. 

Also, I appreciate something that RedLine recently did. They had Mat Gleason come into their gallery to give a talk, and attendance was free. Before he spoke, one of the members of the gallery expressed that it is a recent goal of RedLine to begin bringing in outside voices to contribute to the Denver art scene. That is remarkably valuable, because it has the potential to alter Denver's image on a national scale. Such efforts should inspire members of the Denver art scene. 

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

I feel like I've been silently competing with James Jean for a couple of years. He is remarkable. I've been impressed by his ability with ballpoint pen in particular. He just has this ability to make every inch of every composition a complete composition in its own right. There are so many little surprises in his paintings and drawings, I see something different every time I look at his work. One time, Mr. Jean complimented my work over Twitter, and I think that gave me an orgasm. 

On a more local scale, I'm inspired by my friend and mentor Carlos Frésquez. He made me aware of the importance of mural art, and I certainly hope to do more of it in the future. While I am certainly not a Chicano artist, certain concepts important to Chicano art that Carlos has described to me have inspired me greatly.

Another local who inspires me is my studio mate, Jimmy Sellars. It's his series of iPad drawings that really gets me going. His drawings of the figure demonstrate great line economy, and that leaves a lot of room for playing around with flat color. Plus they are so provocative and intriguing. I have the capability to draw using my iPad, and so seeing what he's done with the medium has made me want to push myself. I think that the more I get into iPad drawing, the more the influence of Jimmy's work will be visible. 

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

Hell, I'm just now graduating from college. I didn't even know that art has seasons. I am, of course, watching my peers from Metro State. Artists like Leon Haze, Kans89, Timothy Arndt, Lucas Thomas and Antonia Fernandez display so much skill in college classes and forced me to push myself. I can see them doing amazing things when they are all liberated from an academic setting. But there is a lot of bias in this answer. These people matter to me personally.  

There is an artist named Jono Wright, whom I know significantly less personally, whose work has impressed me greatly. I'm still finding my footing and trying to figure out how to sell art. It's hard for me to know who to watch while I'm so busy. 

See more work by Charlie Boots online.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with photographers Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi Sink.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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