Colorado Creatives: Paul Keefe

The artist's shoes cast in ice, 2019.
The artist's shoes cast in ice, 2019.
Courtesy of Paul Keefe
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An inventive artist stretching beyond the conventional in his own practice, Paul Keefe also supports a whole community of colleagues doing the same. He's the co-founder and co-curator of Grand Opening Gallery, an elusive pop-up space in his living room that he runs with fellow art iconoclast Brooke Tomiello.

What drives him to seek other artists who buck the trends? Keefe muses on the Colorado art scene in his answers to the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.

Paul Keefe in New York.
Paul Keefe in New York.
Courtesy of Paul Keefe

Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Paul Keefe: I create things to satisfy my curiosity and my sense of humor, and I am often amused by the bad ideas. The absurdity and uncertainty in the unexplored territory of bad ideas compels me to make work.

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

Ricky, Julian, Bubbles.

As an artist, curator and gallerist, how would you size up the current climate in the local art world?

The scope of artwork represented in the Denver art community, albeit small, is becoming more diverse and dynamic. The emergence of multiple artist-run spaces in the last few years, such as Yes Ma’am Projects, Georgia Art Space and Minerva Projects, have brought more experimental artwork into the city to augment our contemporary commercial galleries and museums. It’s encouraging to see a healthy variety of artwork in Denver.

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

I have always been impressed with the generosity of the Denver art community. Artists support each other here. They show up at each other’s events and create exhibition opportunities for one another. I feel lucky to be a part of such a supportive community. My biggest complaint, however, is that artists don’t challenge each other enough. It’s important to offer constructive criticism to your peers, and it's important for artists to make work that challenges its viewers and invites more than praise. I want to see artists in Denver make less conventional art.

How about globally?

For better or worse, art and money have always been inextricably linked. Money can be a tool used to produce spectacular results, but it can also have detrimental side effects. In an article published by Artnet News last summer, writer Chris Wiley describes “art’s fraught relationship with finance."

Paul Keefe, “Tahoe Alien,” 2018, acrylic on canvas.EXPAND
Paul Keefe, “Tahoe Alien,” 2018, acrylic on canvas.
Courtesy of Paul Keefe

You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?

I would really love to see the Venice Biennale, I would love to see Morocco, and I want to go back to Belgium.

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

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful group of smart and talented people in Denver, such as Brooke Tomiello, John Roemer, Steven Meyers, Chris Bristow, Jessye Ebbinghouse, Zach Reini, Arielle Meyers, Johnny Defeo, Justin Camilli, Eric Corrigan, Matt Pevear, Marsha Mack and several more. I really could go on. I feel like my community here helps me to be the best artist I can be. There is a constant dialogue and exchange of ideas between myself and my friends that has become an essential component in my growth as an artist.

Also, I grew up here, and I want to help make Denver a destination for the arts.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

There are many artists that I respect and admire in Denver — too many to name here. Instead, I’d like to focus on artists living elsewhere in the state. On the Western Slope, Liz Ferrill, Sam Harvey and Jen Arnold have perfected their unique visual languages in painting, printmaking and ceramics. And in Colorado Springs, Jessica Langley and Bradley Benedetti have made significant achievements in sculpture and video. I’m looking forward to seeing what these artists do next.

Paul Keefe's installation at Art and Design Gallery, University of Kansas, 2015.
Paul Keefe's installation at Art and Design Gallery, University of Kansas, 2015.
Courtesy of Paul Keefe

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

Two-thousand nineteen is going to be a very exciting and busy year for me. I will be working with my curatorial collaborator and close friend Brooke Tomiello on a few exhibitions in our space, Grand Opening Gallery, and I will be showing a new body of work at Lane Meyer Projects in May. I’m especially excited to make a series of work with my good friend, John Roemer, involving Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and ice.

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

I would like to see more of Dylan Griffith’s wonderful paintings in the coming year. His graphic, idiosyncratic works are funny, weird and pleasant all at once.

Learn more about Paul Keefe and his work at his website and on Instagram.

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