Carlos Fresquez standing in front of a wall of colorful grafitti

Q&A with Paint Studio Demo Artist Carlos Frésquez

Carlos Frésquez will be in the Paint Studio September 7-8 and September 14-15. The Paint Studio is included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and under.

Carlos Frésquez was born in Denver, Colorado. He received a BA from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 1980 and a MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1995. He has exhibited his artwork in over 30 U.S. states and in over a dozen different countries. Carlos has lectured about Chicano Art history and his own artwork at many colleges, universities, galleries, and art centers including; Las Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Albuquerque Museum, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Smithsonian American Art Museum. He is currently a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

He has been included in many touring exhibitions, including The Colorado Artist Fellowship Awards Exhibition, touring the state (1997); The Chicano Codices: Encountering Art of the Americas, which toured the American Southwest (1992-1994); Rasquachismo: Chicano Aesthetics, which traveled the state of Arizona, and the groundbreaking exhibition, Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation CARA, which traveled nationally (1991-1992).

Carlos has been honored with many awards. Selected awards include; The Bonfils Stanton Award for the Arts 2018; a sculpture commission for Paco Sanchez Park, City of Denver Office of Cultural Affairs 2017; the NEWSED Civil Rights Award 2016; The Lena L. Archuleta Community Service Award, Denver Public Library 2005; an Outstanding Alumni-100 Years/100 Alumni of Denver Public Schools, 2002; a Purchase Award from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center 2000; The AFKEY Award for Excellence in the Arts, Denver Art Museum 1998; and an Arts Innovation Award, Denver Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, 1996.

Laura Thompson: What will your demo at the DAM look like? What can visitors expect?

Carlos Frésquez: I will demonstrate a transfer process that uses acrylic matte medium to transfer a black and white photocopy onto a small painting. I’ll have photocopies of images and small paintings on wood that I’ll transfer the images onto.

LT: Your paintings feature a rich use of color and a varied use of artistic styles. Could you talk about the role of color and artistic styles in your artwork?

CF: I grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I have been inspired by cartoon comic books and psychedelic posters. Also, my color interest comes from Latin-American folk art. I believe color is the voice of a painting; some of my paintings are a bit loud.

LT: Could you discuss the role of humor in your artistic practice? Do you see it as a strategy to effectively question socio-political structures?

CF: I love humor. What is that old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine?” Having grown up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I was influenced by Mad Magazine, Zapp Comics, and other underground comics. I love to use wit whenever I can in select works.

LT: Some of your artworks incorporate American pop culture and European art historical imagery with visual representations of Chicano and Latino culture. Could you provide some insight into how your artistic practice developed?

CF: In one series, I call Humorous Appropriation I like to take paintings, drawings, or prints of art history and replace the original figures with myself, friends, or well-known Latino or Latina figures. When I was an art student back in the mid-1970s, images presented in my art history classes never showcased Latino artists. I felt I should make up my own view or my-story NOT his-story.

I love pop culture. I grew up on TV shows that were goofy and non-threatening, like The Munsters, Gilligan’s Island, Batman, etc. I like appropriating some of the nonsense of those programs.

LT: What are you thinking about when you begin a new painting? Do you decide on a specific design concept beforehand or do your compositions take form more organically?

CF: I work much more organically. I will sometimes decide to make a work that comments on a current event or a social issue. I then look at it from many angles and strive to make works that will either sucker punch you or make you think or laugh.

Laura Thompson is an artist and studio programs intern in the department of learning and engagement.

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