Shayna Cohn and Christopher Thompson, “Alter Embassy” multimedia installation, detail, 2014.
Shayna Cohn and Christopher Thompson, “Alter Embassy” multimedia installation, detail, 2014.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

Colorado Creatives: Shayna Cohn

Artist Shayna Cohn makes sparkly, shiny statements with enveloping multimedia installations that are anything but understated. An affiliate professor at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design with an affinity for interdisciplinary collaboration and brainstorming through ideas with others, Cohn is an engager and free-flowing mentor in every stratum of the local artist community. Today, she's keeping us all apprised of what she’s up to next by answering the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.

Shayna Cohn, “Coffee Table Paintings #5 and #6,” 2018.
Shayna Cohn, “Coffee Table Paintings #5 and #6,” 2018.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

What (or who) is your creative muse?

Dollar stores, music videos (specifically "Genesis," by Grimes), drag queens, casinos and my parents.

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

Drake would DJ while Kenneth Anger, Abby, Ilana and I would dress up in drag and dance until 5 a.m., because it’s best to dance it out.

Shayna Cohn, “Coffee Table Painting #5,” detail, 2018.
Shayna Cohn, “Coffee Table Painting #5,” detail, 2018.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

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

Denver folks are fine, down-to-earth people. It’s such a warm and cozy community, and the longer you’ve been here, the more it feels like family. However, I would love to see more tangible opportunities for artists of all kinds. There are limited (yet growing) opportunities for funding and non-commercial exhibitions, but we need increased and diverse support for our growing creative community. I love the house- and garage-show scene, but we also need to manifest sustainable models so that these alt modes can continue thriving.

How about globally?

Barriers to entry are primarily lacking in funding. The art world should lead the way by changing this unethical model and start paying for content!

Shayna Cohn, “Sacred Smash,” 2017.
Shayna Cohn, “Sacred Smash,” 2017.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

The fact that only 25 artists account for nearly 50 percent of all contemporary auction sales. Let’s spread the money around. I would love to see investors buy local and non-blue-chip artists and more investments in non-commercial artworks.

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

I can only imagine reincarnating as something sparkly and immaterial, like a beam of light, a prism rainbow or a spot of dew on a fake indoor plant.

What’s your dream project?

My dream project would be to be able to make artwork, and it was always summer, but without social or economic inequity or climate change, and no one I love would ever die.

Shayna Cohn, “Everything glows but nothing is sacred,” from For Lease, 2017.
Shayna Cohn, “Everything glows but nothing is sacred,” from For Lease, 2017.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

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

I love the young energy of our city. With its lack of established hierarchies and preconceptions about what art can be, Denver maintains a sense of approachability and experimental collaboration that would be more difficult in an international art hub. Last year I collaborated with Broad Street Realty and the 40 West Arts District to get access to a huge empty warehouse kitty-corner to Casa Bonita that by many other standards would be considered unusable. The lack of finished walls, installed lights and running water inspired creative problem-solving for a month-long installation of works by myself, Marsha Mack and Carin Rodenborn that we called For Lease. We started this show off with an opening-night performance by the New Genres Collective and rounded out the month with a poetry-reading event by Sommer Browning, Richard Froude, Mathias Svalina, Nancy Stohlman and, finally, a musical performance by Yonbre.

I also ended up using this space to host a final exhibition for my RMCAD Video Art class, and students got a chance to experience the challenging and rewarding process of installing and promoting an exhibition. Most recently, Ally Leedy, my friend and accomplished art historian, curator and musician, curated a show, Gendered Senses, at Sommer Browning’s garage gallery space Georgia Art Space of my work alongside Mack, Rodenborn and video artist Serena Chopra. Together again in a different yet similarly alternative art space reminds me that Denver is full of possibilities. We just have to make them happen.

Shayna Cohn, “Everything glows but nothing is sacred,” detail, For Lease, 2017.EXPAND
Shayna Cohn, “Everything glows but nothing is sacred,” detail, For Lease, 2017.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

There are so many – superstars abound, but someone I love working with and really admire is Reed Fuchs from DeCollage and Moon Magnet. He’s a super-shiny person who illuminates in 360 degrees through music, art and an unstoppable spirit of collaboration. I have enjoyed working with him on a few projects and look forward to collaborating on an installation project this winter!

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

Lots of things on the horizon this year! Being a puppy parent will be on the top of my list for a while, but I’m also super-excited to serve on the board for the Immersive Summit hosted by CU Denver on November 10; mark your calendars and grab your tickets (they're going fast!). This one-day summit seeks to start the conversation about immersive, experiential and installation art and build community between design, fine art and commercial practitioners. I’m looking forward to being included in a show at Grand Opening in the winter of 2019, curated by Brooke Tomiello and artist Paul Keefe, as well a top-secret project — stay tuned! I’m also continuing to make my new studio at Prism Workspaces a home away from home with my studio-mates and awesome artists Sara Sisun and Matt Pevear.

Shayna Cohn and Christopher Thompson, “Alter Embassy,” multimedia installation, detail, 2014.
Shayna Cohn and Christopher Thompson, “Alter Embassy,” multimedia installation, detail, 2014.
Courtesy of Shayna Cohn

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

Besides the folks mentioned above (seriously, check them all out!) I would have to say the Unseen Collective. This highly talented, eloquent and fearless group of young women put together a great show, curated by Drew Austin at ReCreative Denver, and absolutely rocked it. I have no doubt they will continue to make waves in the Denver art scene.

Sophie Lynn Morris is a longtime pal and Denver fave who is constantly producing really smart, hilarious and always evocative paintings and sculptures. Also watch out for Joshua Field, my mentor and cherished friend, who makes exquisite paintings that inspire dreamlike disassociation.

Learn more about Shayna Cohn and her work online.

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