FameBooking had the pleasure of interviewing renowned artist and Denver celebrity Katie Caron. Perhaps you’ve seen some of her thought-provoking (and enormous!) installations and would like to know a little bit of backstory on their creator? We think you’ll be impressed by the philosophical concepts behind the art, as well as the amazing life story that has propelled it into existence.
We love that you use re-purposed waste like Styrofoam and rubber toy cast-offs to make art. Do you stockpile this kind of waste, and where do you get it from?!
I get many of my materials from companies who donate their industrial waste to non-profit art and education organizations like RAFT (Resource Area For Teachers). These companies get a tax write-off to donate their biproducts for educational use.
Aside from the obvious value of turning landfill into art, what kind of statement are you making by using it?
I was born in the 1970’s, an era when plastics emerged as the panacea for a disposable economy. I grew up in the advent of Green Peace and the first Earth Day. I spent my childhood concerned about industrial waste, Chernobyl, and the detrimental effects of oil spills on our earth’s oceans. I use these wasted materials to bring awareness to my viewers about the abundance of waste created to produce the conveniences and superficial needs of urban life. Born into a world of wasteful habits, it is hard to change our ways, and I am just as much a hypocrite as my neighbors.
Your installations are sometimes enormous – what do you do with them if/when the show is over?
I often recycle the materials when I am done using them for my installations. Recently, I created a permanent installation for a Santa Fe-based entertainment company Meow Wolf, for their dark ride at Elitch Gardens in Denver called Kalidoscape. It is always a dream to create a work for a specific site and then not have to store it afterward!
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
Looking back on my life, I was always very ambitious about making things as a child and young adult. I was also interested in athletics and theater. Strangely, being a sculptor involves both my need to be physical and kinesthetic with my process, and my desire to build fictional worlds.
You were a ceramist early on. Do you still work with ceramics? Other materials? Do you have some “dream” material you haven’t used yet?
I run the ceramics department at Arapahoe Community College, so yes, I still work with clay every day. I have moved away from clay since graduate school in my personal work, mainly because it is not the best material to communicate my ideas. The scale that in which I work is difficult with the weight and material constraints of clay. However, I do believe I will return to clay when I have the right use for the material. I want to invent my own material that feels like porcelain but is more translucent and does not need to be fired in a kiln.
So you did schooling, teaching and art making in both Boston and Detroit, but returned to Denver. As a Denver celebrity and famous artist, tell us what’s cool about the Denver art scene.
Of the three cities, Denver feels more like my home, both as an artist and person. My work is inspired by the intersection of nature and culture, which Denver so well provides. Having put down roots here since 2003, I feel connected to the artists, educators and gallery directors with whom I have engaged with for over a decade. The longer you live anywhere, you feel more connected. I love that the Denver art scene still feels small and approachable, meaning, unlike New York or LA, you can easily mingle with emerging and mid-career artists at venues like Redline Art Space, co-op galleries like Pirate and Spark, to commercial galleries like William Havu and Robischon. There are many art worlds in Denver to explore.
How long have you been teaching and what are your favorite classes to teach?
I have been teaching since I can remember. First at camps in my youth, art centers and public schools in my 20s and now academia in my 40s. My father was a teacher for 30 years, and I am his daughter. I feel more like my true self in the classroom than anywhere else in my life. My favorite classes to teach are Ceramics and Installation Art to undergraduates.
What is your favorite part of your artistic process?
All art forms have elements that you enjoy more than others. I have come to realize that I love working intuitively composing forms in space. I spend weeks compiling work and objects in order to spend time arranging them in dynamic compositions. I love abstract work that draws from fractal patterns found in nature. I am compelled to create works that give agency to my subjects by personifying forms with life, movement and interaction.
You had an unusual accident that influenced your art – can you explain?
I experienced a serious trauma a month after I earned my graduate degree. I was teaching a summer course at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2019 in Detroit and, while helping a colleague move a series of walls to open up the studio space, suddenly all three walls came down on top of me, 900 pounds, crushing my pelvis and lower back. I will never forget the intensity of that moment, and indescribable pain. At that moment I did not fear death if death would make the pain stop. I spent three months following multiple surgeries in a nursing home north of Detroit called Heartland. In those longs months I learned to walk again and spent my days trying to document my pain through drawing. Later at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, I created an installation from these very personal drawings called Mending. The installation was displayed in a way that showed my progressive healing from a low height drawn in my wheel chair, to standing and then hung high from a ladder.
That is incredible. Anything you would like to say about the artist life?
Get a day job, lol! I teach because it affords me the freedom to create the work I want to make without feeling like I need to rely on selling the work. Artists are always reinventing themselves through their work, although it is hard to escape your personal aesthetic. Art making should be hard if you are making relevant work. Art work should raise questions in the mind of the viewer. Art making involves solving self-constructed problems, and there is no rule book.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
In life as it is in art making, “do something, do anything!” This quote is from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse about the challenges, fears and anxiety of art making. If you spend too much time overthinking the work you will never start. Get in there and start making a mess, follow the work, and let it lead you.
Would you tell us your five favorite artists, in any genres?
Most of these artist are sculptors, but all share a similar intuition and critique of our world. Five only is impossible.
- Eva Hesse
- Roxy Paine
- Anish Kapoor
- Mona Hatoum
- Robert Motherwell
- Olafur Eliasson
- David Lynch
Thanks for talking with us! In closing, tell us a talent you have that most people don’t know.
I played Division One lacrosse at Boston University.
Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your life and work with us, Katie Caron. We can certainly see how you have become so well-known and are clearly a Denver celebrity this city can be proud of.