We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Brasuell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
My name is Mark Brasuell and I was born in 1964 in a very small town in West Texas called Roscoe. Growing up in a very rural environment informed my work and a very early stage as I mainly focused on landscape. At the age of eight my mother sent my brother and I to an art teacher to take art classes. Well my brother wasn’t very interested in it I really found my muse here. I started drawing and painting and studying how to teach painting from some well-known West Texan artists. Being a gay artist was challenging and being from a small town, I knew I had to get out.
At the age of 15 I actually taught my very first painting class and was well on my way to becoming a professional artist. I then moved to Lubbock Texas and went to Texas Tech University to study painting and drawing. It was there that I met Ken Dixon a prominent regional artist and I learned what it was like to have compassion for what you do. Ken was probably the only teacher that I had that was actively making artwork. I knew that I wanted to teach but I also wanted to be an artist and seeing that on such a local level really inspired me to be active, inspired by my environment, and also to give some commentary on what it was like to be me.
After graduation I went to Denver University and received my Masters of Fine Art in Sculpture Painting and Intermedia arts. I started working in the art scene in Denver helping establish one of the first alternative cooperative galleries in Denver, EDGE Art Gallery. I became president of that gallery and served on and off for about 12 years. I also was very active in the local political scene creating several groundbreaking shows including A Day Without AIDS and Homophobia at EDGE Gallery. My first exhibition in Denver was called Personal Espionage and it won best of Denver for best installation in 1989. I have won over 5 Best of Denver Awards over the years
My life and artwork revolve around my own personal experience. I am a painter, sculptor, and multimedia artist. I use energy, emotion, and a physicality in creating my artwork. I usually start out with a vague idea about the emotional impact I want the piece to have, but I rarely have any thought out plan of what the finished piece will look like. I let my intuition, body movement, and emotional state guide the piece out of my mind and onto the canvas or drawing surface. I reserve all judgment until the final stages of the piece.
I have often said that I hate painting. I mean that sometimes the process can be excruciating for me, because I am not satisfied with what the painting looks like prior to being finished. However, the last 10 or 15 minutes of the painting is the best part. In a way it is exactly like a drug. I get euphoric and excited about how it turns out. I think to myself, “That is what I was thinking”. Really, without thinking at all.
For the last several years I have focused on what I call conceptual abstraction. It is based on color, action, and some personal and emotional “ideas” There is usually a background and foreground, vibrant and moody colors, and an occasional ghostly image or two. I want people to make up their own minds about exactly what these images are, but I try to point the viewer in a particular direction. I want people to enjoy my artwork and to see something new in the paintings every time they view them.
My work is featured at Leopold gallery in Kansas City and also in museums and private institutions all across Colorado and Texas.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I would say my current work is really about several things. Most importantly it’s about color shapes texture even processes. I’m working on two different bodies of work the first called Einfach (Simple in German), and the second, Erased, work based on an eraser. The work is using bright colors and pastel and has a series of shapes and mark making that reference objects in reality, and more importantly in my imagination. Bright funky and just fun to look at.
The work itself is at its core based on the work of Stuart Davis who was a famous artist in the 50s and 60s. Lots of color shapes unusual forms and all done in pastel. Pastel is the perfect vehicle for expressing textural and linear elements both at the same time. I have hidden symbols inside all of the artwork. The double zero for example means that you are married. The cross hatched linear line is a reference to the railroad. A railroad went through the middle of my hometown in Texas, The Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific Railroad. So there’s hidden gems inside of all of the artwork that some people will pick up on but they are clearly visual notations for people to figure out and discover. I am learning several different languages including German. All of my new work is titled in German.
Part of what my artwork is about is the idea of revelation and mystification. I want you to be mystified but I also want to tell you something about my work and essentially about myself. I am probably the only artist in Denver that does pastel on the size and scale that I do. Most of my artwork is around 4′ x 5′ which is incredibly unusual for pastel. Often my pastels are confused for paintings which is a huge compliment to me. To me all types of media are essentially the same thing we’re all trying to say something in a visual way that is engaging and exciting.
I would say being an artist is one of the most difficult things you can do. You work in solitude, you develop ideas that are inside your mind, and you just hope the people get it. If they can relate to it at least on the visual level I’m fine with that. Do you have to know everything about the artwork in order to enjoy it? No you don’t. I have led a life here in Denver where I am constantly reaching out to new artists, I’m trying to let other people know about emerging artists. I’m not a person that really centers on the past.
I am also a gay artist and very proud of that fact. I recently created a show with Michael Paglia of Westword magazine that was featured at the McNichols event Center here in Denver called lavender mist gay men in Colorado art. This was an extensive survey of gay artist that helped shape and mold the art world as we know it today. We are one of the first people to feature gay men in Colorado art. It was an important and singular show in Colorado history.
Artwork to me is about discovering what’s happening showing what’s happening and maybe enlightening people to something that they never thought about before. I would categorize my art as constantly investigating reinvigorating changing and really pushing points that I didn’t think I would go to before. I am constantly challenging myself.
I think that artists need to grow and move and change. I want people to see my work is some thing that they have never seen before. I want people to think, oh shit, I didn’t think of that.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would definitely say that Denver is one of the best places for eating. So many different options. When people ask me what places are good to eat at I always ask them well what kind of food do you want. If you want Ethiopian some of the best Ethiopian food in the country is here, if you want Vietnamese there are so many incredible Vietnamese restaurants here it is unbelievable. If you want to steak we have that if you want vegetarian food there are so many places that have so many options here. And oh my goodness if you want sushi there are so many great places. The best being Sushi Den of course I have been going to Sushi Den since 1988 and it only gets better and better every year.
As far as fun places to go obviously the museums. The Denver Art Museum is one of the best in the country as is the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Outdoor Museum, the Kirkland. Alternative art you definitely should go see the art on Santa Fe and also one of the best up-and-coming alternative scenes yes 40 West. No where else can you say such a diverse and interesting group of artists showing a white artwork in Colorado is about.. You could do a whole day of nothing but visiting art galleries and museums.
That being said don’t forget about the outdoors I often go outside, love to hike. I love going to a store called Herbs and Arts and Ritualcravt which specializes in pagan and mystical things. You have to go to the parks here for sure including Cheesman one of the most beautiful here in Denver. I always tell people to go to Garden of the Gods even though it is quite touristy it is a beautiful place to go also including Red Rocks Amphitheater for sure. There’s such so much you can do in Denver and surrounding areas. I can’t imagine someone spending a week here and seeing everything.
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 give a shout out to all of the people that have given me chances over the years. Ken Peterson of EDGE Art Gallery for giving me my first professional show.
Ken Dixon, who looked at my artwork early on and said that it looked like I had something to say. No one has ever told me that before that my artwork could be a vehicle to talk to people not only about myself but about the life I’m living.
Kari Edwards who is the first teacher that really took a personal interest in my art and in my life and showed me how to make art that was about me but also about the world around me. An Artist who is always looking for making art that had never been made before. Famously saying in an art statement, my artwork is about everything or nothing or both. That type of emotional depth was what I was trying to talk about in my art. Whether it be political social or even personal artwork would always be about the self and how to present it to viewers in the most accessible way. I want people to enjoy my art to see some thing that maybe I didn’t see and both of these people taught me how to do that.
Gordon Mehterian, director of TALK Gallery, who became quick friends with me and let me be his inaugural artist in this contemporary Englewood art gallery.
My collectors: Kathryn Wenderski, who has over 50 of my artworks, Steve Johnson who has a mini collection of my work in North Carolina, and to the museums and galleries that have supported me over the years. EDGE Art Gallery, Spark Art Gallery, Leopold Gallery, KS, The Denver Art Museum.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.brasuell.5, and my fanpage, Mark Brasuell Artist
Youtube: Mark Brasuell
Personal Photo by Don Wenderski In my photos I am pictured with Gordon Mehterian Titles of the artworks (in order) Sonneuntergang, Pastel on Paper Meine Scheiße zusammenbringen, Pastel on Paper Eindrucken, Pastel on French Paper glückliche Tage, Pastel on French Paper Reisen in meinem Kopf, Pastel on Paper rosa Vogel, Pastel on French Paper, Seeungeheuer, Pastel on French Paper,