By Barbara Brooks
If Molly Bounds could print replicas of herself to accomplish even more, she probably would. When she isn’t making her own art, she’s going to shows and events to support Denver’s creative community. Or she’s advocating for affordable spaces where artists and musicians can collaborate, work and live.
“My unwillingness to be ‘not busy’ has kept me going,” said Bounds (B.F.A., printmaking ’14). “I have to have my plate really full at all times.”
Bounds’ full plate has resulted in a banquet of great art for all of Denver to see.
Right now, she has several small paintings on display at Denver’s arty new Hotel Born. She is putting the finishing touches on two wall-size paintings for the Denver Convention Center. And Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned Bounds, along with five other artists, to create 25 original works for its new art-lending library, called the Octopus Initiative.
After the first round of the Octopus Initiative lottery took place April 15, three lucky art lovers each borrowed one of Bounds’ monochromatic portrait prints to display at home for 10 months. Several of her other works, to be loaned in future lotteries, are on display at the MCA.
The artists were chosen for their “rigor and dedication” and their “spirit of risk-taking and dynamism,” said MCA director Adam Lerner.
“Molly is clearly a bright star in the constellation of Denver artists,” Lerner said. “Her work speaks to the youthful world of street art, ’zines and comics but has the elegance and maturity of the fine-art tradition. It's not surprising that she is receiving so much recognition lately.”
Bounds is one of many MSU Denver alumni who are helping to shape the city’s contemporary-art scene. Her predecessors and peers are starting and running galleries, studios and live-work spaces. They are among Denver’s most talented young independent artists, especially within the do-it-yourself art culture.
“From the very beginning, I was witnessing a pretty strong community within a community,” Bounds said of the students and young faculty who worked in conceptual and interdisciplinary ways and were generous with constructive critique. “I was fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented people.”
For example, Mario Zoots (B.F.A., digital art ’11) was a senior when she arrived. In 2013, Westword called him “a phenomenon in the local world of emerging artists.” For the past two years, Bounds and Zoots have had coveted studio residencies at the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. Derrick Velasquez began as an affiliate faculty member in 2010, during his own RedLine residency. In 2013, he launched Tank Studios, one of Denver’s most affordable communal studio spaces for working artists. His work is now represented by Denver’s prestigious Robischon Gallery and has been shown across the country. Velasquez also is featured in the Octopus Initiative.
Deanne Pytlinski, chair of the University’s Department of Art, says many recent alumni are making art and art news across Denver and the Front Range. David Dadone (B.A., art history, theory and criticism ’08), is executive director and chief curator of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Neil Bigley (B.F.A., painting ’08) and Sarah Quinlan (B.F.A., painting ’08), started the Boxcar Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District, whose mission is to keep the affordable-art scene alive in Denver. As an artist-owned-and-operated incubator, Boxcar shares exhibit costs with the emerging and established artists who show there.
There are some even more recent success stories. Ryan Pattie (B.F.A., digital art ’10) helped start Denver Digerati, which brought large-scale LED animations to Denver’s public-art landscape. Jeromie Dorrance (B.F.A., digital art ’11) started Dateline Gallery, where he showcases artists from Denver and around the world who take “experimental or marginal approaches to their art-making practices.” Carlos Escamilla (B.A., art history, theory and criticism ’16) writes about art for 303 Magazine.
Finally, Pytlinski noted that some alumni find success in national art markets and still return to Denver to show their work. For example, Patrice Renee Washington (B.F.A., sculpture ’11), who lives in New York, will have a solo show titled Patrice Renee Washington: Charts, Parts and Holders, at the MCA from May 24 to Aug. 26.
MSU Denver’s Center for Visual Art, at 965 Santa Fe Drive, is a “cultural bridge between the University and the community,” said director Cecily Cullen. “The CVA offers paid internships in curation, marketing, promotion, graphic design and other professional fields. Before they graduate, all fine-art and communication-design students learn the process of putting together an exhibition.”
A show featuring May 2018 graduates is open through May 11. Most of the student work is for sale.
When Bounds graduated in 2014, she showed a series of her prints at the CVA. A year later,
she had a solo exhibit at the MCA – “Critical Focus: Molly Bounds” – an accomplishment that is relatively unheard of for an artist so young.
But her aesthetic is perfect for these DIY-influenced times. She was raised on comics and cartoons – “The Far Side,” “Calvin and Hobbes,” “The Simpsons” and “Peanuts” – which led her to the tactile art of printmaking.
“It’s a way to invite everybody in,” she said. “It’s art that you can take. Art that you can touch. It’s not so precious that there has to be a disconnect between you and the work.”
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