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Member Spotlight: February

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Alex Blom, Kade Sawyer and Sarah Woodward

Alex Blom

Originally hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, Alex Blom’s studio practice centers on how religious institutions and childhood development have impacted his queer identity. Blom’s interdisciplinary work, based in painting and printmaking, amalgamates deeply personal color palettes, self-image, art historical references, and LGBTQ cultural phenomenons to explore ideas that were deemed taboo in his childhood. Blom graduated from the University of Denver in the Spring of 2023 with a BA in Studio Art and is currently involved with Media and Marketing for Mo’Print Colorado.

I wanted to join Art Gym and pursue the Create Award Residency to push my practice after graduating and keep up my creative momentum. I knew that Art Gym would also allow me to engage with a creative community and form connections with and learn from artists of all media.

The time, feedback, and support that I’ve received over the past six months has been better than I ever could’ve asked for! Although I’ve had a lil’ time during my undergrad to independently explore, this residency really allowed me to sprawl out and experiment. I feel like my confidence in my work and my creative voice have absolutely developed since July and I’m so stoked to see where the next few months take me!

Although my work is incredibly personal, I hope to share my experiences with people. I really strive to be a beacon for folks who have similar backgrounds to my own and show how I’ve overcome and grown from my lived experiences. Organized religion isn’t the only way to cultivate spirituality, and I hope my artwork can broadcast that sentiment.

I’d say that I take influence from three different “eras” of art. First is Italian 15th-16th century Renaissance work — your Botteccellis, Mantegnas, Michaelangelos and the like. Second are queer artists creating sociopolitically charged work through the AIDS epidemic — Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzales-Torres, and Ross Bleckner. And finally contemporary artists (mostly figurative painters) who currently work with broad senses of identity, intimacy, and reclamation — Doron Langberg, Ryan Driscoll, Sasha Gordon, Oscar yi Hou, Salman Toor, Jordan Casteel, Suchittra Mattai, Kehinde Wiley, and Kent Monkman (to name a few).

My artwork allows me to put myself, my experience, and my body into the world on my own terms. It’s incredibly empowering and allows me to convey in imagery what I sometimes struggle to put in words. My art has absolutely provided a way to reconcile some of my past experiences while also unveiling facets of myself that were previously buried.

 

Kade Sawyer

Kade Sawyer (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist from Denver. They graduated with a BA in Anthropology from Tulane University in 2022, specializing in the nexus of art/archaeology and the study of materiality. Their work is deeply informed by this perspective, often engaging with themes of identity, belonging, community, and memory. While they primarily work with intaglio printmaking methods and found/ sourced objects, exploring new mediums is a core part of their practice.

What made you want to join Art Gym and apply for the Create Award Residency? When I moved back to Denver last year, finding a space to pursue printmaking was one of the first things on my agenda. I had been doing relief printing from home for several years but wanted the chance to dive deeper into my printmaking technique. I heard about the Create Award Residency after I became a member. The timing felt perfect, so I went ahead and applied.

How has Art Gym helped with your art practice? The facilities and staff at art gym are unparalleled. It has been such a treat to create alongside people of various talents and have the space to sprawl out and experiment. Art gym has opened so many doors for learning and growing that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.

What are you hoping to communicate through your work? I hope to communicate the intricacies of our relationship to our material environment, and more specifically, how identity and materiality are deeply interconnected.

Who and/or what are some of your biggest artistic influences? Archaeological theory has been a great source of inspiration and influence on my work. I often draw from personal and community history in my work as well. Music. Play. Tim Ingold, Michel Foucault.

What does your artwork mean to you? My work is often deeply personal and pensive, reflective of the environments and concepts I am steeped in at any given time. It is both a cathartic processing tool and a mode of play and growth.

 

Sarah Woodward

Sarah Woodward is an interdisciplinary artist and designer. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a minor in French from the University of Connecticut in 2021. Sarah studied in Siena, Italy at the Siena Art Institute where she received her Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fine Art in 2022. In 2023 Sarah was awarded the Create Award Residency at Art Gym Denver, completing her six-month project titled Stanger Again. Sarah is currently a fellow with Design-Inquiry, an educational organization that explores pressing issues in design and culture. Her fellowship began with a week-long residency in London and focuses on a collaborative project exploring site-specificity, storytelling and generative modes of print. She is currently a Group Programs Associate at the Denver Art Museum, facilitating art education opportunities for youth and adult groups. Working in a variety of mediums, her work explores site-specificity, environment and deeply personal transformation through place.

After graduating and moving to Colorado I was seeking an artistic community and determined to find my way as a professional artist. The Create Award Residency provided the perfect opportunity and support for me to dive into both these things.

Art Gym has given me a creative community to thrive in and provided me with the space and tools I need to continue growing my artistic practice outside of school.

I am hoping to communicate my personal experience in new places through my work in a way that the audience can relate to. I hope to bring attention to the un-noticed and the subtleties of different environments.

I am heavily influenced by Rebecca Solnit, Mary Oliver, Marina Abramović and Sophie Calle.  I am also heavily influenced by my professors at the University of Connecticut, Mark Zurolo, Emily Larned, Monica Bock, Edvin Yegir, and all of my professors at the Siena Art Institute especially Jacqueline Tune and Lisa Nonken. I am continuously inspired by my peers as well, including Alex Blom, Kade Sawyer, Rohan Mahoney, Alexia Rontionova, Elli Kikidi and Harikleia Papounidou, Emily Karam and many more. I grew up with the artistic influence of my mother and father and am inspired by the carpentry and design work they have achieved.

My artwork is my means of communicating my deepest emotions. It serves as a journal of my lived experiences and a touchstone throughout my life, a way to say more than I can with words.