We had the good fortune of connecting with Rian Kerrane and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rian, how do you think about risk?
The excitement and adventure in my life comes with my pursuit of art. This passion I have to create is driven by my surroundings and the materials and opportunity they suggest. To me, risk taking is inevitable in the arts and making good work involves pushing away from one’s comfort zone. In my world as a sculptor and an academic I constantly encounter choices and the responsibility of decision making. Whether designing an artwork, mentoring a student, seeking promotion, deciding to have a family, or travel for months at a time, each decision implies taking risks. The creative risk is such a fun place to be as an artist. Composing, designing, applying materials, and communicating to others with my personal visual language, are all part of the creative process and occur every time an artwork is made. My world involves a fair amount of travel nationally and internationally in pursuit of exhibitions, lectures, conferences, and residency opportunities. I am constantly submitting proposals and responding to applications where specific demands allow me to generate fresh ideas and spark new directions. Ultimately the thrill from seeking the next adventure and inspiring and mentoring others provides all the excitement I need. If I need more, I can always melt some metal at two thousand degrees and fill a mold with my leathers on!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Becoming an artist and a professor was not necessarily a straightforward path for me. Looking back on my educational choices and life journey I realize that I stubbornly followed my passion and even if it wasn’t obviously a path to academia, I knew I was an artist. I studied Fine Art at the University of Ulster Belfast, which had a rather conceptual approach to art practice comparative to the way art is taught in the States. I earned my graduate degree in sculpture at the University of New Orleans, Louisiana. And it was in the U.S. that I had the best experience with hands-on, craft, process, and tools. I reveled in the industrial landscape that opened up my art practice to include the fabrication of tools and equipment. My work still encapsulates industrial materials and language with the organic, temporal and conceptual. I feel like my two worlds: Ireland and the U.S., are entwined in works that combine, for example: fabrics, plastic, or water, with rusting steel, bronze or weighty cast iron. My work might best be described as playful pairings of contrasting materials and imagery. My approach is an instinctive (I term it “archeological”) response to textures and materials, as I pair elements to better reveal human, social and cultural dynamics through the symbolic use of recognizable imagery. Working as an object making, using print, site-specificity, installation, and performance, the word “sculpture” is a catch-all, umbrella term, for my art practice. P.S. I have cast umbrellas into iron too. My website link: http://riankerrane.com
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.
Of the excellent art venues in town I’d include the MCA Denver and RedLine. I would ensure visiting friends should experience the city with the Downtown Denver “Between Us” alleyways project. Link here: https://www.downtowndenver.com/experience-downtown/alleys/ P.S. my work, The Oscar Wallpaper, is featured between 16th and Broadway at Court Place. Check out Susan Froyd’s updates in the Westword for the current art happenings in town. Cheuy FU’s Latin-Asian Grub is the best at 11th and Santa Fe, and then you are in the Santa Fe Art District ready to stroll and see some art. Sculpture Field, Arvada Art Center is a great venue to take in the work by some of our regional sculptors. I bring my students there all the time. 68th and Wadsworth, Arvada. I have a current project at the History Colorado Center. The HCC has four floors of amazing exhibits and I am conducting ongoing hand casting sessions on the second Saturday of each month. All the cast plaster hands are then added to a wooden structure in the atrium which spells, “WE THE PEOPLE”. The work invites the community to express themselves symbolically as a unified voice and is part of the HCC American Democracy exhibit running till the end of the year. Links here: https://www.historycolorado.org/exhibit/american-democracy-great-leap-faith
https://www.historycolorado.org/events#event=62391098;instance=20201114103000 Sweet Cow Ice Cream is a must and I enjoy the drive up to Buffalo Bill’s museum and grave in Golden so folks can get a sense of perspective looking down over Denver. The Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant is a bit of original Denver history. It has the first liquor license in the city and was originally where trappers would sell and trade. The Mercury Café is the antithesis in some ways, with a plethora of vegan options, locally sourced products, and yummy deserts.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Iron casting as a practice in the Fine Arts is becoming more established through the effort of organizations such as the Western Cast Iron Art Alliance. Website link: http://wciaa.org I am a founder and longstanding board member for the Western and am indebted to the collaborative and community nature of this group of peers. We are all sculptors west of the Mississippi who work with iron and our cadre supports the practice of casting molten iron as teachers and mentors through the biennial conferences we host. Our exhibitions, performances, and workshops all focus on cast iron as a medium. We mentor others and in return are also formed, molded and mentored. I am grateful for my iron colleagues and their years of friendship and support as well as our mutual insatiable drive to host these fun and physical endeavors. My students, alums, and artist friends have been presenting nomadic iron casting events in the Denver region since 2005. Remember Ironton? Our first (and several more) public iron pours happened at Ironton Studios and Gallery in the early days of the River North Art District. The College of Arts & Media, within the University of Colorado Denver where I teach is a research institution and therefore supports my career as an artist in a myriad of ways. I came to Colorado for a sculptor position at CU Denver in 2002 and am honored to work with our students alongside the Denver art community for almost twenty years. Nothing satisfies me more than mentoring my graduates to express themselves through their art making and in preparing them to launch their art careers. We have a long lineage connecting with artist co-ops like EDGE and Pirate, and working with organizations such as RiNo, RedLine, Denver Art Museum, and the Arvada Center to name a few. Our location in Downtown Denver and proximity to such a vibrant center for the arts allows us to establish working relations with the best of the best.
Jess Blackwell Photography credit for the “RianKerraneDWD2020” image. The remainder are taken by myself, Rian Kerrane.