BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO

Kaitlyn Tucek is a name to remember. This Denver artist captured our attention with her striking works, not only for her bold color choices but because her organic lines inspire a feeling of connectedness. 

Tell us a little bit about your background… What made you interested in art? Who were your early influencers?

During my high school years, I was lucky to have an exceptional mentor, illustrator Jeffrey K. Fisher. He would often assign artists to study and allow us to follow our interests in research.  To be clear, Jeff was a teacher I saw for group figure drawing and locational drawing classes voluntarily on a weekly basis from the age of 14 until his unexpected passing a few years back. I wasn’t receiving any credit, nor was I even up-to-date on my payments for his tutelage. We just did the work because he told us to, and we believed in him.  Over the years he gave me many post impressionists to study, such as Degas or Lautrec. Most impactful during those years was probably Kathe Kollwitz. I loved how she rendered human forms and was also an advocate for social justice. Jeff also encouraged an early love of N.C. and Andrew Wyeth. I continue to marvel at Andrew to this day, even engaging in a conversation with friends about him last night. What most of these artists had in common from my early studies, were exceptional drawing skills. 

What is your state of mind when you are painting? Tell us about your process. 

I believe my mind is the least busy when I am finally painting. If I am painting, then I have already worked out the concept, the palette, the composition and that just leaves the execution. My mind feels calm and content in certain ways (if it’s all going as planned) and the process becomes therapeutic. The process leading up to that is much more torturous. I don’t like when I haven’t worked out the idea yet, and I can’t see the final work in my mind. That leads to a lot of frustration and I tend to seek out as many resources to spark an idea as possible. Once I can see what I want to make and how the entire thing will be experienced by the viewer, I relax and enjoy the process. 

Your work is mainly abstract, but you have also created more realistic works. How do you see your work evolving?

Even my abstracted works are based on studies of representational forms, usually figures but occasionally anatomy or landscapes. I adhere to the human form more than people realize. It provides a sort of tabula rasa, a place for me to experiment and progress and also express thoughts and concepts, etc.  I am really trying to find a place where my representational and non-representational tendencies can come together harmoniously. That might take me a lifetime, but fingers crossed it doesn’t! 

What are you currently working on? 

My show alongside Lindsay Smith Gustave at Alto Gallery comes to a close January 12th. I loved this show! Lindsay and I are good friends and I can’t express how wonderful it was to work with her.  Our bodies of work really spoke to each other and felt so cohesive and meditative. I’m sure I will take some time to reflect on that experience and how much I learned from it. As for the studio, I am planning on strictly working from now until next fall on my upcoming show at Leon Gallery with artist Nathan Hall. The show is centered around Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who, even with twenty plus years of art education, I never learned of until last year. I have been doing quite a bit of reading about her life and work, indulging in multiple theories and connecting with experts on her life.  I have high hopes for this show and the progress of my work. I am looking for ways of representing the figure as well as abstraction in these pieces. 

What’s your take on the Denver art scene?

The Denver art scene is only getting better, which excites me.  I am surrounded by artists who keep progressing and pushing. I believe criticism and competition is increasing which is a great thing – it can only help us get better as individuals as well as a community for collectors to take notice of.  I do wish more of Denver’s residents would participate in the local art scene.  I would love to see new faces at openings and events, I think the community would gain a lot from that on both sides.  

Who are your current art inspirations? 

I’ve recently started following the work of artist Erica Mahinay (Lyles & King, NYC) whose work is currently satisfying all of my fiber art interests. Her palette is elegant and just delicious. I was also really moved by the work of Joana Vasconcelos that I was able to see at Jupiter Art Land outside of Edinburgh this year. Her installation with the incorporation of sound encouraged my interest in working with composer and visual artist Nathan Hall. Most importantly, through my research on Artemisia Gentileschi I’ve learned about a number of other female Renaissance or Baroque artists that fell into obscurity such as Lavinia Fontana, Michaelina Wautier or Sister Plautilla Nelli. I’m not quite sure how their work is visually impacting me but I am currently knee deep in discovery.  

What is your advice for budding artists? 

Even though this might send you down a more difficult path, believe in yourself and remain authentic. I’m not arguing for ego or arrogance, only doing things or nurturing relationships that feel good and challenge you in important ways. I once met Kiki Smith, who I greatly admire, at a small art talk back in NYC.  I introduced myself and let her know I had just graduated from Pratt. I asked her if she had any advice for little 21 year old me. She told me “find your community” and damn was she right. I can’t emphasize how strongly I feel about that statement now.  

You have a distinct style, what are your guiding principles when choosing your designs?

I follow my interests both conceptually and visually. I decide on a narrative and start to pull pieces together (probably stemming from my design centered education) that best communicate the things I want to say. Once I understand what it is I want to communicate and the visual elements I want to explore, I get to drawing. In the style of an old school illustrator, I start by working on (or within) little thumbnails. Thumbnails are small drawings, usually framed in four loosely drawn lines. I roughly and quickly draw out the compositions within the frames and once I choose a composition I work out the details in small mock-ups. Once I solve all the main questions, I begin the final piece. Sometimes, in some more abstract expressionist works I work on many canvases at once, allowing myself to improvise the composition or combine new elements that I hadn’t planned on.  The work I currently have on view at Alto Gallery includes a number of pieces that were more intuitive and inspired rather than created with drawn-out plans.  

Musical inspirations? 

I am returning to the studio this month with only one body of work in mind. I am collaborating on a show later this year at Leon Gallery with Nathan Hall. Nathan is a brilliant composer who has recently shown at Understudy downtown. Because of this collaboration I started to realize I’m not familiar with most classical, romantic and baroque composers. While I often listen to twentieth century composers (Glenn Miller is in my top ten spotify rotations) I haven’t spent much time on most orchestral music. I’ve started to listen to Nico Muhly and Arvo Part per Nathan’s suggestions. I even find myself listening to Mozart on my runs (I swear it’s GREAT). 

 

But, in all honesty, I vary greatly in my musical interests. Last night I played and sang Bing Crosby’s Swingin’ on a Star for my kids on repeat and then followed that with some Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.  The last show I attended was a dear friend (The Bones of JR Jones) who was headed to play at the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival and played at Globe Hall on his way through. 

Tell us about your family.

Oh man, are we loud! Seriously, I talk too much and my husband is charming and chatty and sure enough, our kids followed suit. My son Nico is four going on seventy and my sassy little daughter Rowan is a peanut two and half year old. It’s just us here in Denver. My family is all back in NY and my husband Matt’s family is mostly in Tennessee and Ohio. Raising two kids a thousand or so miles from home has its challenges but it also creates quite a bond between all of us. We’re the type of family that eats together every night, mostly because our schedules allow us that privilege (FYI- Matt is an amazing cook). I suppose you could say we also paint together, being that both myself and my husband have studios in the house. There is no free babysitting in our world which I am sure some readers can understand, so we’re often all at home or going on adventures together.  If you see two little kids walking around introducing themselves in RiNo at an art opening, they probably belong to me.

Kaitlyn, we anxiously wait to devour all of your future work, but for now will sit satisfied with your beautiful creations. We feel nothing but gratitude for having had the opportunity to meet you and learn more about your mark in the Denver art scene.

Kaitlyn Tucek is a name to remember. This Denver artist captured our attention with her striking works, not only for her bold color choices but because her organic lines inspire a feeling of connectedness. 

 

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