Gail Folwell at the Denver Art Museum with a sculpture she created, In the Peloton.

10 Things That Make an Athletic Artist Tick—Q&A with Gail Folwell

She can be seen climbing around her taller-than-most-of-us sculptures barefoot and pedaling up Tour de France mountains in France. Artist Gail Folwell is on the move, like the subjects in her work.

Just installed at the Denver Art Museum is her new piece: In the Peloton. The bronze creation depicts cyclists maneuvering within a racing pod and is a bike tube's throw from where the USA Pro Cycling Challenge routes it's Denver stage. Down the hall at the DAM is her sculpture Tête à Tête, on the Reiman Bridge.

The former graphic artist with a BFA and many years of university teaching on her resume began spending more time sculpting about 20 years ago. She and husband architect Michael Folwell are principals of Boulder-Colorado-based Folwell Studios.

I spoke and e-mailed with Gail about her practice and what roles sports, fitness and activity play. See the bottom for her nods to a few Colorado outdoor destinations as well as some photos she shared.

Fairlight Baer-Gutierrez: What are you thinking about when your artwork is being installed somewhere?

Gail Folwell: Context, the venue, the silhouette. How the piece will engage people from a distance and draw them in. What will they gain.

FBG: What were a few of your considerations in creating In the Peloton?

GF: Conceptually? The Peloton is about the cumulative energy created by the riders drafting off each other. It’s risky, competitive, and dangerous in there, strategic and necessary. They merge essentially and move as one pod of energy with it’s components jostling for position. I was sculpting that, what that feels like. It’s wind and inertia and pedals going around—and chaos that creates this one fluid swarm that’s beautiful to watch.

FBG: USA Pro Challenge or Tour de France?

GF: The Tour is epic. The mountain stages are magnificent. I’ve done a few. What they endure is unfathomable. We lived in Grenoble [France] for six months in 2011. It was a long-time goal of mine to have the kids do some part of middle school in a foreign-speaking European school. Sort of a coming of age … cultural-survival experiment/hike, bike, ski, golf, sculpture, architecture, tour de Europe. It also happened to be my 50th ; - ) It was great. We did a home exchange, lived right at the base of the Chamrousse climb that was in this year's [Tour de France]. We rode Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon, Alpe Duez, and Col de Porte.

FBG: How does the Denver creative scene now compare to, say, what was happening here in the mid- to late-1990s?

GF: I think there has been an extraordinary evolution. The calibre of work, the number of fine-art venues, more museums, galleries, the clientele and corporate collections, public art. Denver has come into its own as an art center. It struggled for years being recognized as predominantly a sports city and cow town, the west. I think winning the Yves St Laurent exhibit was testament to its coming of age.

(The DAM was the exclusive United States venue for Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective in 2012.)

FBG: If every child should know something about creating, what would that be?

GF: Forget about what it looks like. Make what it feels like.

FBG: If every grown-up should know something about creating, what would that be?

GF: Same thing. Priorities. Look to be moved by art. Then impressed.

FBG: If someone wants to casually try their hands at bronze casting, where do you point them?

GF: Art Students League [of Denver] sculpture classes, and now I saw that there were some bronze casting clinics at the DAM! Small scale, Western Heritage has a kit to carve a wax and they cast it.

FBG: How do your relationships influence your practice?

GF: We are all creating from our experience and connection. It’s everything. How I relate to an event, a person, a moment, is what I sculpt.

FBG: Nick Cave, whose work we showcased in the Sojourn exhibition here last summer, has talked about how he requires exercise every day. Could you share your physical activity routine and what it does for you as an artist?

GF: I love, need to exercise, mostly outside and I like to get to the top of things, ride or hike mostly. It clears the chaos and I don’t sit still very well even with it. I’m not much for routine, but I hike, mountain bike, road bike, paddle board, lift, tennis, ski, et cetera.

FBG: What is your favorite trail in Colorado?

GF: My favorite fast and furious hike is Mount Sanitas [in Boulder]. Mountain bike: Sunnyside in Aspen. Skiing: Aprés Vous on a powder day.

Image credit: Gail Folwell. Canadian, born 1961, Ontario, Canada; lives in Boulder, Colorado. In the Peloton. 2014. Cast bronze Edition 1 of 9. Gift of Ray and Sally Duncan. 2014.112. © Gail Folwell

Artist Gail Folwell cycling in France

Artist Gail Folwell cycling in France. She has ascended more than one of the mountains that have been part of a Tour de France leg.

Gail Folwell at St. Andrews Links in Scotland with her family.

Artist Gail Folwell played at St. Andrews Links in Scotland with her family, daughter, Taylor; son, Cole; and husband, Mike.

Gail Folwell works on the sculpture Challenge

Gail Folwell works on her sculpture Challenge at her home studio. The University of South Alabama commissioned the artwork.

Gail Folwell works on her sculpture The Edge at her home studio. Vail Resorts commissioned the artwork to be installed in Vail, Colorado.

Gail Folwell's daughter, Taylor, with some of artist Manfred Kielnhofer's Guardians of Time sculptures.

Gail Folwell's daughter, Taylor, poses with some of Austrian artist Manfred Kielnhofer's Guardians of Time sculptures—these in Goodwood Sculpture Park in England.

Fairlight Baer-Gutierrez was digital communications manager in the communications department at the Denver Art Museum.