We had the good fortune of connecting with Colleen Hennessy and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Colleen, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My work/life balance has changed a great deal over time. In the 1980’s, I went from kitchen sinks, to a basement darkroom, and finally a small space for printing photographs (though I miss the magic of the darkroom). With my painting, I graduated from a small table in a jungle house in Central America to an easel, and finally a two-car garage that has been converted into a studio. I have managed nicely and been prolific in my work no matter what space was available to me at the time. The work life balance has been a challenge in recent years, as I juggle my time as an Early Childhood Education Assessor for a non-profit organization. I devote most of my spare awake time to making art. The balance is improving all the time, as I am able to devote a good part of my week to my creative work and experimentation.

I think there are some important tnings to have in order to achieve the balance. These include setting up an organized workspace, less time on the computer, keeping a journal, and surrounding oneself with creative people. It is always inspiring to see someone thrive artistically. Channeling one’s creativity into different parts of your life helps also helps with the balance. I have decorated my humble home with work I have collected from other countries and local artists. For many years, I have utilized creative energy in the portraits and weddings I photograph. One of my recent assignments was photographing empanadas (salditas) for a Bolivian friend who is starting a business.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a Denver native who has lived in California, New Mexico, and Honduras. I kept coming back to Denver. I’ve spent many years photographing and traveling in the US, Latin America, Ireland, and Spain. Along with fine art, my commercial work has included wedding and portrait photography. A high school film-making and photography class 40 years ago provided the environment where I recognized in myself the passion for creation that has been a driving force throughout my artistic life.

Artists give many reasons for making their art: a desire to communicate, a need to express their feelings, and the inspiration they get from looking at another artist’s work. The main catalyst for my endeavor is the joy that I experience and am able to share with others. My creative fire is kindled by the people I have met in my world travels to places like Mexico, Honduras and Ireland. Improvement in one’s craft comes with experience and hard work, but inspiration is also essential for the artist who wants to develop his or her talent to the fullest. Making photographs and paintings and sharing my work is as integral to my life as are eating and sleeping.

I am a graduate of New Mexico State University, an avid student of Spanish and collector of folk art. While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Central America for more than two years, I began producing a series of photographs that reflected her experiences of living in the high jungle rain forest of Honduras. I love variation, with a taste for abstract patterning and the repeated use of bold colors. I work in both oils and acrylics. I believe that all art manifests some aspect of the autobiographical. All art is history, a diary of one’s personal growth and psychic resolution. I am energized by travel, personal freedom, new friends, and new attention to my work.

In Honduras, I painted most of the day, every day, since it rained 9 months a year on the mountaintop. Having a daily routine led to a large collection of photographs and paintings. Many of the paintings were made from my photographs. I have worked with abandon, and this is where the joy comes from.

I have participated in over 125 exhbitions and publications, including 30 solo exhibitions in various Colorado galleries. Local venues and galleries include The National Center for Atmospheric Research, Camera Obscura, Foothills Art Center, Museo de Las Americas, and Curtis Arts and Humanities Center. In New Mexico, I have exhibited at The Branigan Cultural Center, and New Mexico State University Art Gallery.

I was a fellowship recipient at the National Greeley Art Exhibition and received Best of Show at the Gateway to the Rockies Exhibit at the Aurora History Museum, along with various honorable mentions, including The Gates International Photography Exhibit and the Northwest International Exhibition of Photography in Puyallup, WA. I also received first place in the people category of the International Peace Corps photography competition.

I am excited to travel again. Being able to speak Spanish gives me the opportunity to avoid tourist areas and get to know the heart and soul of a place through the conversations and stories of the local people. This truly energizes me and offers endless opportunities to make photographs and paintings.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Depending on the time of year, we would have leisurely breakfasts at several of the many authentic Mexican restaurants in my Denver west side neighborhood. Our stops during the week would include Santiago’s, El Noa Noa, Torres, and Jaimes. I would want my friend to be able to view the diverse architecture and murals in the city, which would include a walk down Morrison Road, Santa Fe Arts District, and over to RiNo to see all of the new developments. A drive over to East 6th Avenue and Monaco Parkways would also be a treat for the eyes, especially if it were autumn. Though I have left several times, I always have returned to my native city.

We would walk down Ninth Street Historic Park on the Auraria Campus. This was where my beloved mom was born in 1925. She knew everyone who used to live in the Victorian houses on this tree-lined greenway. If my friend liked beer or scotch, we would wander over to Pints Pub before heading to the Denver Art Museum. I would also want to show off our beautiful Main Library, along with the sculpures that surround Martin Plaza.

They are not quite like Ireland, but we do have some fun Irish pubs here, including The Irish Rover and The Irish Snug. Sienna Wine Bar is my favorite place for wine tasting, and we would stop at this cozy, relaxed place offering an ample wine list & Mediterranean-inspired small plates & desserts.

In the evening, we would check out the Mercury Cafe’s schedule and spend an evening there. They have organic-oriented eats plus music, poetry, dance lessons & tarot readings that add to the funky vibe.

Although this question refers to favorite spots in the city, but after a few days of showing off Denver, we would head to the Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood, Mt. Evans, and Redrocks to round off our week.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my Shoutout to Mesilla, New Mexico painter, Rosemary McLoughlin (https://rosemary-mcloughlin.com). I worked under her direction at the New Mexico State University Art Gallery during the 1990’s while I was earning a degree in Spanish. During the years of sharing my photographic images and spending five semesters in the Ceramics Department, Rosemary encouraged me to paint because I had so many stories to share. I always knew I would love the process, as I began painting at an early age, taking a break when photography took over my life.

Hal Gould of the Camera Obscura Gallery in Denver also deserves recognition. I visited and volunteered in his gallery for many years until it closed in 2011. I was a high school photography student when we first met, and I remember Hal saying, many times, “Art is in the artist, regardless of the medium.”

Over the years, I made two trips to Mexico with Hal, and a trip to Ireland with Rosemary.

I also want to give Shoutouts to Glenn Cheney of New London Librarium for publishing five books of my paintings. Titles include: By Night or Day, Art of Love, Every Common Sight, On Women, and Wheresoe’er. (www.nllibrarium.com/hennessy)

In addition, Patricia Martin of On Demand Instruction deserves a big Shoutout for using my paintings to create stories to publish six bilingual children’s books. Titles include: Day of the Dead, Fran, Reyes & Cruz, Trinidad, Oscar, and Sofia. (https://www.ondemandinstruction.com/books.html)

Website: http://www.artpal.com/colleenhennessy

Instagram: cohennes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cohennes

Other: www.flickr.com/photos/chennessy My books of paintings: www.nllibrarium.com/hennessy My bilingual children’s books: https://www.ondemandinstruction.com/books.html

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