Artwork by Devon Dikeou Whether (2018), a series of 200 bottles created for the occasion.

'Twice the work & half the pay:' Devon Dikeou & the World of a Conceptual Artist

Conceptual artist Devon Dikeou spoke at the Denver Art Museum on April 4 as part of the 2018 DAM Contemporaries Logan Lecture series, Artists on Art: From Any Angle. She used the evening as an opportunity to consider a quote by John Baldessari: “Instead of looking at things, look between things.” The “in between” informs the art, collecting, and editing of Denver-based Dikeou.

Responding to the 42 topics of Art is the Highest Form of Hope, Dikeou approached her lecture with an unconventional style that interlaced advice with anecdotes. She mixed personal philosophy regarding each of the topics – that ranged from inspiration and materials to limitation and money – with stories from her career. The lecture took the form of a crash course on living and working in the art world.

Working through the 42 themes, Dikeou reflected on how she got her start, how her work has evolved, and how she continues to approach her career. For Dikeou, creating art involves “thinking, then seeing, then thinking, then seeing.” Her process combines the “thingness” or physicality of the work with the idea behind it. She talks about art school as an optional path, an experience that provides a creative “fertilizer,” but makes art into a less organic practice. Dikeou’s remarks emphasize the importance she places on the thought that goes into art. To create, a conceptual artist first needs to reflect. Art school can nurture artistic expression, but also alter artistic approach.

Devon Dikeou during her 2018 Logan Lecture in the Sharp Auditorium
Devon Dikeou during her 2018 Logan Lecture in the Sharp Auditorium. Photo by Brandon Vargas.

Sometimes inspiration strikes from unusual and unpredictable circumstances. While discussing “chance,” Dikeou recounted a project born from initial dislike. Dikeou’s husband, an antiques dealer, bought ten Renaissance chairs for their home. Initially, Dikeou found the chairs a cumbersome eyesore that she would attempt to hide when company came around. However, she channeled her dislike for the burdensome furniture by transforming it into art. She placed a photograph of each of the ten chairs alongside a corresponding portrait of a pope; the diptychs showcase an innovative approach to Renaissance portraiture and religion.

Dikeou’s creative style transforms ordinary objects and concepts into artistic commentary. Her artwork asks its audience to consider an everyday item or an accepted idea from a different angle, to think, then see, then think, then see again.

Image at top: Whether (2018), a series of 200 bottles created for the occasion. Attendees were encouraged to take a bottle following the Lecture. Photo by Brandon Vargas.

Katherine Uhlir has been writing for DAM Contemporaries since March 2017. Her favorite Denver Art Museum exhibitions to date are Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford and Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective.