Artist Javier Flores grew up in a blue-collar family in Brighton. There he developed the work ethic and personal integrity that’s helped him find his way through adversity and redemption. But it wasn’t easy. At nineteen, Flores was paralyzed by a bullet and went into a tailspin eased only by family support, the physical release of martial arts and a self-directed desire to make art. He went to art school at Metropolitan State University Denver and on to grad school in Texas, returning as a leader and a teacher sharing his skills at MSUD and Front Range Community College, as well as in the community at the nonprofit Access Gallery and the Museo de las Americas.
We tapped Flores for the Colorado Creatives questionnaire just as he’s endeavoring to put his printmaking expertise to work as part of the current citywide Month of Printmaking 2020 exhibition and workshop series.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Javier Flores: My creative muses are literature (fiction and nonfiction), music (blues, cumbias, country — outlaw country, mostly — ’80s, folk, goth, hip-hop, indie, new wave, oldies, rancheras, rockabilly and soul), and, of course the visual arts. I am also very much affected by the socio-political system and the times we live in, and am usually reacting to something in this realm.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
This is a very difficult assignment because I am a self-proclaimed history nerd. I went back and forth and could have easily made a list from each different era during which humans have existed. Having introduced my caveat, I will start with Emiliano Zapata: He is one of my revolutionary heroes and a Mexican Revolutionary hero whom I would love to talk to about Mexico’s past and present. Second, I would say Hypatia, who was an astronomer, historian, mathematician, philosopher and librarian at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (a wonder of the world in antiquity). I cannot imagine the conversations we could have about the ancient world. The third person I would choose to invite to this party is Leonardo DaVinci. I’m in awe of his draftsmanship, and I’d love the opportunity to pick his brain about technique, perspective and ingenuity. This was a hard list to solidify, and one that is by no means in order of importance. They all equally share a huge place in my heart and imagination, among so many more.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best thing about the local creative community in the field of visual arts is the diversity: We have artists from every walk (or non-walking) way of life. The hunger of the artists here is pretty impeccable, as well. We may not have the most nationally celebrated artists, but we are just as hungry as they are for opportunities.
The worst thing about the community is too much jealousy, selfishness and general contempt. I feel like we have some people who are really supportive and others who are constant haters. I would not say that I have not been a part of this, but it is something I try to be conscious about. The solution for me is to only surround myself with people I admire, respect and support, and who reciprocate those actions. Life is too short to be mad. I try to stay away from negative or toxic people in my field, but it is a small world — and smaller art world.
What drew you to printmaking as an art form in the first place?
My addiction to printmaking began at Metropolitan State University Denver when I was an undergrad. It started in Barbara Hale’s Print 1 course and was bolstered by the late and great E.C. Cunningham, a longtime associate professor in printmaking. He was a type of father figure for me and others, who selflessly mentored his students. Through his love of printmaking I was introduced to many super-talented artists in the field of printmaking throughout the U.S., and he serendipitously introduced me to Ryan O’Malley, my mentor in grad school at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is to build up a cooperative printmaking space/press. In the field, any place that is dedicated to printmaking is called a press and often has a name that fits in the field or is a clever pun associated with the medium. The press at MSUD was Vicious Dog Press, and in grad school, Ryan O’Malley named our press Full Court Press for his love of basketball. I would love to do this in academia, but also in general for those who cannot afford higher education or do not have that as an option.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver, I love Colorado. I am a first-generation U.S. citizen born and raised in Colorado, and what keeps me here is family and friends and the support I get from them.
I'm greatly concerned about the influx of negative and corruptible influences that have changed the landscape of the state and metro area for the worse — the biggest culprit being gentrification in the form of rent-gouging by greedy politicians and contractors.
Currently I am applying throughout the nation for a full-time tenured track position in higher education (the dream!), so I will have to wait and see if this opportunity takes me elsewhere or makes a place for me here. Colorado will always be home and a place where my soul will gravitate to, so I will always have a vested interest in this beautiful land.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
This is a very tough choice, and arguable even with myself, but as an influence and mentor, I would say Carlos Frésquez, whom I call Art Dad. He has given me numerous opportunities and support. I am grateful for his belief and support.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
My agenda this year is busy as always. I will continue to apply for full-time tenured track positions here and elsewhere, as well as for residencies. March is Mo’Print or the Month of Printmaking, and I am involved in seven exhibitions, a demo and two workshops.
In April I will be on a panel and participating at the Southern Graphics Conference International (SGCI) in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico. I think that is more than enough to think about for the moment, but I do want to travel more later in the year.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
It is always a very fickle art scene, so I would never presume to say who will get noticed this coming year, but who should get noticed is number one, my friend and comrade Josiah Lee Lopez. I think he is one of the most underrated artists in the metro area. Also, Autumn Thomas is an amazing sculptor and artist.
Three more artists who are out-of-this-world talented and pretty well known (but could always use another shout-out because of their caliber of character) include Joseph Martinez, a super-talented painter and artist, and Jaime Molina, who is already pretty well known but still worth mentioning over and over again. He does murals, sculpture and great art. And Delton Demarest is a great illustrator and muralist, and an even better person. I will say that all of these people are ridiculously talented, humble and great humans.
Work by Javier Flores is included in the following Mo’Print 2020 exhibitions: PaperWORK, Access Gallery, through March 20; Estampas Corrientes y Comunes, Chicano Humanities and Arts Council; Process: CVA Printmaking Studio and Exhibition, Center for Visual Art; Embracing the Wilds: Print Conference, University of Colorado, Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28, $45 to $60; and 528.0 Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition and Imprint: Print Educators of Colorado, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, through March 29.
Javier Flores will give screen-printing demonstrations from 2 to 4 p.m. during the Arvada Center’s free Print Madness day on March 21. Flores will also lead a workshop, What a Relief: Lino Printmaking with Javier Flores, on March 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Center for Visual Art ($15 to $25, register online), as well as a free Print and Play linoleum print workshop using a 3-D-printed mini-press on March 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Access Gallery.