We had the good fortune of connecting with Teresa Castaneda and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Teresa, what role has risk played in your life or career?
We all risk getting rejected, judged, and making mistakes. I resolved to encounter such reactions turning risks into a growth mindset. Not taking risks would be detrimental to my career because feedback from rejections and acceptances add to my work. My lifestyle and career involve deliberate risks, for example, I choose not to have a traditional job with a steady income, founded a zero-use organization sustained from trash to teach all demographics how to make art from it, at the same time I’m processing trash I work with high-end jewelry and priceless diamonds, received national recognition for making up a word “Crinkleism”, 11 years ago I capitalized on the obligation to buy roses on Valentine’s Day by supplying stores with roses I make from toilet paper cores. (caring a double entendre risk). I ride the edge of too cool / too weird daily with bold introspective art for spectators to gravitate toward its beauty, laugh at its quirkiness, or identify with deeper meaning. Triggering reactions experienced firsthand: Self waste awareness, inspired to duplicate, delve deeper into its invention, compelled to take part in with organizational sponsorships, offended by it, gift it, and publications sharing its cleverness. And while we are on topic, dare I risk saying? My own self-gratitude of not caring where it goes once it leaves my mind’s eye. After all, I’m not an artist to invite people to my “shows”, sell, get famous, judge your recycling/reuse, or tailor to someone’s home décor. I make it for me, for our home, pragmatically releasing ideas from my imagination to move on to my next creation.
“My Art” includes several mediums in five groups.
Assemblage Art: ReArranging Denver a zero-use project I founded over 10 years ago sustained with scavenged materials teaches waste awareness and bridges communities to local businesses through creative reuse workshops, installations, and events contracted by Denver County, Arapahoe County, Boulder County schools, libraries, and art affiliations. Assemblage art made through the project has been sold by over 20 Denver and Boulder retailers, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Denver Art Museum.
Photography: My “street photography” (shooting everyday life) has been published as journalism, included in fine art exhibits, and won awards. It is implemented daily to document my art, jewelry, events, teach photography workshops and a tool to translate how I see waste when participants take pictures in my photobooths created within ReArranging Denvers events.
Fine Art: Painting and printmaking I’ve invented processes in each of these mediums. One of which was an homage to the lack of “ism’s” art movements “Crinkleism” sold over 600 original prints, national shows, awards, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Other invented styles are rolled paintings where canvas tilt and gravity pull thinned colors to create a capricious roadmap. Once a year I remove all color from my palette to refresh technique because whether it’s abstract or figurative; the composition should stand on its own without color. From this practice, my formed white painting style emerged. Movement and color come from the viewers’ ambient light changing its facade from taupes and browns to oranges and blues, and blacks and greys. The subject matter is inspired by my family. The birth of my firstborn. Titled “Casels Crown”. “Casel and Malan” mirrors my children’s intertwined playful energy. A family portrait composed of four parts split into two layers within the same canvas. The bottom layer represents the stability of my husband and me. The four interset but gradually twist apart depicting our differences. The top layer is our children leaving the canvas’s edge representing their freedom.
Sculpture/Jewelry:These two mediums require meticulous attention with ZERO margin of error, requiring a more focused meditative state unlike the other mediums, a steady hand, envisioning in reverse (seeing negative for positive), symmetry in millimeters, converting weights from rubber, resin, wax, plaster, and exact tempatures of alloys and precious metals to prevent firescale and porosity. My current Sculpture “Shesus” is a combination of growing up seeing an iconic statue everywhere then years of art history. It addresses religion, my favorite art period ; Renaissance and my favorite sculpture technique; Reliefs. Shesus’s conception is a spin on the icon and reflects what many are taught to idolize or live by.
We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others
Since I was a teen I’ve been told my inventions and art is ahead of its time and genius by a few important Denver influencers. Robin Rule, Bill Havu, Arlene and Barry Hirshfeild, Lloyd Rule, Dean Sobel, Henry Meininger, Dana Cain, Larry Martinez, Carol Guenzi. Their support encourages continued experimentation, such as taking the word “show” out of galleries, off the walls, and social media and sharing with people as a memory-based collaboration via ReArranging Denver events. Together communities create upscaled art and photobooths made from materials diverted from the landfill, play, and receive gifts that were donated to me by hundreds of local sponsors to pass on through the project. Connecting people to people through something we all have (trash). The “show” now is the happiness, and laughter I witness firsthand with over 60 thousand Denverites and remotely on the front range with participants of all ages and demographics interacting with the project. So…Smart Art and introspective inventions with reuse.
What you are most proud of or excited about.
I get this question a lot at the end of my lectures. I love it because I turn it over to the audience and hear what inspired them from the lecture…. added “ism” to art history? poured smelted gold into an ingot I forge into a pendant with gypsy set diamonds? exhibited in more states than I’ve traveled to? or supplied my router # for direct deposit from the Denver Art Museum for my toilet paper core roses? So what could be more rewarding and infinitely harder? Kids. I have never felt the pressure, pride, and excitement until I had them. This is someone’s life you will impact forever, and who they impact. Nurture kindness, mindfulness to the earth, and self with no expectations. My work shifted for them during the first few years of their lives. They were with me all the time seeing everything I saw, right next to me on top of a landfill mountain I photographed for my lectures, absorbing and comprehending the same facts increasing their intelligence and sensitivity to the earth. They represent our community schools and club sports winning awards in jump rope, rock climbing, basketball, and volleyball, teach what I taught when I was engaged with participants, lead in my place at workshops, and volunteered the same hours I did. We split my paychecks three ways to start their college and checking accounts because they worked alongside me all the time. They’ve incorporated zero waste in their routines and art, continued volunteering and depositing their checks in both accounts from their sales and jobs. Now I accompany them to their endeavors, modeling jobs, art shows, and work. It’s beyond exciting to see both of their work published already based on their talent, not money, exactly how my career progressed, self-made. My chest fills with pride and exhales a huge sigh of relief to see their strength and impact at such an early age.
How did you get to where you are today professionally.
Was it easy?
I slept on a rotten floor of a house being renovated on Colfax in the late ’80s, it had an etching press in the sunroom, I could stay until workers returned the next morning. I put a camera on layaway at Coles Camera for 5 dollars a month when I was homeless and worked on marketing at a 24hr Kinkos then sleep in parks during the day. I worked three food service jobs then walked food that would have been thrown away to shelters that fed me, and delivered my monotypes in trash bags to my publisher at the time William Havu. My emphasis in college was in photography and jewelry so after I paid off the camera my photography career began as a photojournalist, tabletop, wedding, and event photographer for the Federal Government allowing me to rent my own place per week. My second job at a jewelry supply store was a half-hour bus ride to and from every day. Trading labor for tools, equipment, a jewelers bench, and enough to get certified at the Revere Academy in CA as a certified trade bench jeweler. Upon my return, I became a contract jeweler for several Denver retailers at the Merchandise Mart where holidays meant working and sleeping in shifts at the neighboring Inn at the Mart. It also meant getting my own monthly rental for my jewelry & photo studio, oh, and a place for a bed. Nights and weekends I repaired jewelry, printed photo orders, and rented etching press time at the Art Students League to develop my invention in printmaking “Crinkleism”.
If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
First off passion overrides challenge. Second, my foresight 30 years ago of a failsafe plan to carry me through challenges is still implemented today. In Art history, we watched several films of shriveled up old white guys clutching a cigarette, talking about what a struggle it was becoming an artist, so I knew being a bi-racial, low-income woman artist was going to be primarily uphill and I would probably need a smoke once and awhile.
I love photography and jewelry. I’ve printed inventory of B & W photos from glass negatives shot during two wars seeing candid shots, chased fire trucks with my press pass clenched between my teeth, hit the ground after releasing centrifugal force caster filled with molten gold, faceted gems from raw stones, tipped diamonds in antique heirlooms. But, I didn’t set out in the world to be a photographer or jeweler. Those occupations were intended as a day job, increase fabrication skills for assemblage art, photographically document my career, and supplement my income while establishing myself as an artist.
Finding jobs as a professional photographer, print tech, contract jeweler, being homeless, or becoming a practicing artist is nothing in comparison to the daily challenges within my artistic mind. No matter how many exhibits I participate in, ship art to, accept commissions or receive national attention, the challenge to outdo myself is never over.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Ever since I can remember I couldn’t wait to be older. Age meant wisdom, respect, and ultimate happiness only achieved by overcoming a lifetime of struggles. I also couldn’t wait for grey hair and to whack mean people with my cane. I’m finally here, I get compliments on my grey hair daily, mentor teens in local schools, give visiting artist lectures and interviews about my life and art. I got the mean people out of my life without a cane and free to go any direction to create powerful messages the National Endowment for the Arts posted on their website for its positive impact.
That the compass to happiness is staying true to oneself and truthful to others. I didn’t use my gender, race, age, “shows”, or monetary gains define my success or my art. Failure feeds success and homelessness taught me the most valuable thing I own is a deeper connection to others through my creative language all demographics and nationalities understand.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Take risks. Live and lead by example. Another common question I get in my lectures is…. “How did you know you could do that?” referring to my inventions or events. I didn’t! I just take the risk every day. ReArranging Denver has been one of the biggest career risks because I vulnerably exposed how I live and create daily. Its original intent was to help my underserved community, then gained the attention of mixed and wealthy communities, and granted seed money from national organizations. I relish in the confusion of which workshop people should book? The low-income workshop or the mixed-income workshops, or the high-end workshops. To which I explain, and the beauty of the project is that they are one in the same. There is no difference in our trash, where our trash ends up, or the feeling of happiness when receiving a gift while connecting to eachother. Although some have taken offense instead of joy; giving back the gift exclaiming “We don’t need this! We don’t need your hand out!!!!!”, or they are not allowed to have used things, I’ve also been caught off guard during my lecture when I state facts of how exporting our trash created undrinkable groundwater in foreign countries, to which someone exclaimed “GOOD!” All I can do is feel bad for those people and remind them: One kind, One planet. Be nice and a good example for the next generation, don’t be afraid of trash, it connects us. And quit putting plastic bags in it!
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.
My daughter said, tell them what everyone always tells us, which is, this is the best place in the world! (Our home) Our home is the hub. Family, classmates, and friends are always welcome here. I even hosted workshops and tours here. We cook and bake so eat and drink at home, then head out for more supplies. Meininger’s, Orrs Trading, Reynolds Advanced Materials, Art Parts, Rocky Mountian Clay, Stone Leaf Pottery, and independent thrift stores because in my endeavor I learned that chain thrift stores tip-in (meaning your well intention to pass on actually gets plugged into the landfill). Definitely recommend a studio tour with Jerry Simpson / visionary environment artist. Then relax in the comfort of your hotel and visit us online Casel @foster_caselart Malan https://www.nxtmodel.
and my work www.paintbru.sh
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have accumulated several over the years with equal importance, but first… The frontline supporters, my immediate family. My husband Mark Selleck and our daughters-Casel and Malan Castaneda. Their support comes through patience, navigating dangerous chemicals, tools, artwork, and my artistic temperament EVERY DAY. My mentors; Metro State Faculty E.C. Cunningham, Brian Drieth, Jay Dilorenzo, and my work-study with Keith Farley/Jeweler reflected my individuality and ability to fix anything. Denver’s homeless resources, because after college I couldn’t have done it without their help and my BFF Lennie Noiles (also an artist & Nature-based Leadership Coach). Once on my feet again I formed lifelong friendships with two professionals I met early on in my career. Lloyd Rule: Denver Art Museum photographer I interned with, and Jerry Carr/Jewelry and Camera repair business kept me busy with custom design and repair in Cherry Creek. The National Endowment for the Arts backed my career twice with recognitions, meant a lot to mid-America, mid-income, woman artist with kids encouraging their artistic individuality. Also advancing my career is Ryan Wilkes at Reynolds Advanced Materials with client referrals and tweaking some of my projects with his extensive knowledge. Denver events, KaBoom Washington DC, Americans for the Arts, publications, libraries, and colleges with paid visiting artist lectures because all support gets me another day of creation. Denver Arts and Venues/Rudi Cerri, Mary Valdez, Museo, and private clients’ commissions kept me afloat during COVID because all my ReArranging Denver (zero use project I founded) events and workshops came to a complete halt during the pandemic.
Others: Malan’s Modeling Agency https://www.nxtmodel.com/profile/malan-c/
Image Credit: Rob King