Wondering Where All The Art Is?

Viviane Le Courtois and Christopher R. Perez Open Processus: The Institute For Art and Life

words: Kimberly Christoff

It’s an interesting phenomenon when you think of the history of artists benefiting from spending time together and influencing each other’s work. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell; it seemed natural for them to unite. Agreed, artists Viviane Le Courtois and Christopher R. Perez opened Processus, a new work studio and exhibit space hidden in Denver’s RiNo Art District.

“Exhibition space within this space is secondary. The primary use of this space is to work and to make work here, and to collaborate and to have other artists come and do their work here,” Perez explains in a Crave Magazine interview. He continues, delivering a Processus manifesto, “All the things in this space are things that we work with to make our own work.”

To authenticate further, the reciprocity of their exhibit space to their workspace is like a negative floating in a huge washtub. Without heating and plumbing, the couple secured permits and readied the space themselves. The recently opened Processus workspace includes a print room, darkroom, and a wood and sculpture shop.

Le Courtois, who has exhibited her work for 25 years, explains the vision behind Processus like this:

“We hope to create a community of artists. We are trying to make the art community in Denver stronger by allowing artists to have access to what they need to make art; but also for them to come together to discuss important ideas and see the work of other artists involved. We want to bring in artists from other cities and countries and have exchanges.”

For Le Courtois, working near other artists at Processus is characteristic of her life as an artist. She held a residency at RedLine in Denver for three years. Le Courtois also relies on others for objects she needs to make her art. She exudes a quality of being an active witness with a seamless natural way of connecting art to everyday life.

“My work is often made from donated materials I’ve gathered from people over the last 15 years; like socks, junk mail, weeds, or jars. Since I actually collect things from all of these people that I rely on, my work becomes communal.”

Le Courtois created a piece titled Procrastination inspired by the weedy gardens and unkempt homes of her friends and acquaintances.

“When I visited their houses they were in terrible shape and they had many weeds in their gardens. I posted on Facebook that I would come and pull all their weeds while they were on their computers. I decided to do a piece made out of the weeds I collected. So that is why I called it Procrastination because before Facebook, before social media people did more around the house, they took more care of themselves.”

Her work is known to have social-political, environmental, and health concerns as driving forces behind it, and she believes artists have a social responsibility that sometimes goes unfulfilled.

“It is very rare that I see work that actually makes me think. My work is about changing the way people think. I want people to think about new ideas and to think about something that is happening in society like food production, healthy eating, or recycling materials that no one is using.”

Marshmallow Guy is part of Le Courtois’ junk food sculpture series made in 2001. The series, comprising various sculptures made from unhealthy foods like chips and candies, aims to simultaneously teach children about art and the importance of healthy eating. This sculpture is made out of mini, pastel-colored marshmallows and is one of her iconoclastic pieces.

“If you look at it from really far away, without glasses, it looks like skin color, the colors blend in like an Impressionist painting. It looks pixilated. Everybody loves this piece. It became an icon. The interesting part is that junk food doesn’t change or parish over time. It just gets soft when it gets more humid and hard when it’s drier. I had some ant invasion on the feet that I just replaced.”

[/fusion_builder_column] With this sentiment, she has been making a piece for 24 years now.

“It began as a sculpture, when I was at school in Niece. Niece is a very snobby city where everybody is always dressed up and wears black high heel shoes. If you didn’t wear black high heel shoes you didn’t fit in. Instead of not fitting in, I decided to do something completely radical.”

Le Courtois’ response was to fashion a pair of shoes from string. What started as a sculpture manifested into a strong social and political statement.

“It was like an on going performance walking in the streets, museums and galleries … It became part of me, part of my work. I wanted to make people think,” she says.

Over the years, she continues to fashion shoes from grass, Yucca, string and other materials, wearing them along her travels throughout the world, pushing more people to react to her work.

“When I was in China, people wanted me to take my shoes off and throw them away because the shoes reminded them of the shoes they had during the Cultural Revolution and they didn’t want to be reminded of that time. I walked around wearing my art; the reactions are part of it. It’s better than if I’m hanging my art in the most famous museum, and people are walking by it without caring. I’m affecting a lot more people.”



For counterpart Christopher R. Perez, photography is his primary art form. As a self-taught photographer, he discovered solar printing and the wet-plate collodion by experimenting during high school in the 1980s. His photographic work is more about the brief encounter with another and it’s mystery rather than dwelling on a backstory. The result is a breathy, silvery, ghostlike image that demands attention from the onlooker.

“I really wanted to make the imagery that I loved growing up. I tend to romanticize a lot about things that I see. It is like falling in love with imagery with out a backstory. This is something that has always been with me,” he said, adding “I have never wanted to know every detail about something. I want to make my own stories.”

Perez mentions that things get lost with technology particularly that we are getting farther and farther away from knowing what a photograph is and from what a real experience is.

“When I look at a photograph on my iPhone all I’m really doing is just scrolling onto the next image. I don’t know how to interact with it properly. You forget it is what is. But, when you hand someone a photograph and they hold it in their hand, they may look at it for more than a minute, or 3 minutes, or maybe longer. It’s embedded in their brain. When it’s in their hand, they can have an experience with it. I enjoy holding an image in my hand.”

The subjects in Perez’s photographs become his property. He’s inspired to communicate real substance. His group of Photographs titled Unadorned reveal people as they themselves may not recognize. Perez is interested in the bare bones.

“I am the least impressed with who you think you are. I am more interested in who you really are … I am more interested in this being, this unadorned human.”

Perez sees every individual as a unique, equal being and aims to capture this spirit in his work.

“When you are with me in front of my camera you are no longer who you think you are. The image starts to live when time passes. That’s the brief encounter I like to create in my work. You’re driving down the road going 100 miles an hour and you see something, it’s ok to assume whatever you want about it. That’s the dreamy side of me that keeps me ticking; meeting the stranger, having an embrace for two seconds and never seeing them again.”

Perez created a group of 7 to 8 stunning silver gelatin prints he playfully named Irishness. The work originated from a group of Irish travellers performing in Denver.

“When I met them none of them looked like what I thought Irish people should look like. I thought Irish people should have freckles and pale skin. They were different than what I expected.”

Revealing his true artistry, he goes on, “I even tossed in a couple people that just lived here in Denver, who weren’t Irish. I’m not a conceptual artist. I’m experimental.”

Processus is located at 955 24th St., Denver, CO 80205, between Curtis St. and Champa St., in the RiNo Art District.

For more information about Processus, visit processusartlife.com