If you’ve followed Helikon’s shows the past few years, you’ve likely come across the work of Elena Gunderson. The artist’s work, similar to the artist herself, is hard to miss– bubbly, intensely saturated, and often a little zany. We’re excited to host her in our newest show, Hometown Heroes, a showcase of high-level and emerging artists who were born, worked in, or currently live in Colorado. Read on for this Colorado artist’s thoughts on life in Denver, her studio practice, and some advice:

Helikon Gallery:
Did you aspire to be an artist, or did you fall in love with making art?

Elena Gunderson: I suppose it was a bit of both. Ever since I can remember I have defined myself as an artist. Art is my love, and I suppose aspiring to have an occupation as an artist came with the territory. There was never a question in my mind of what I was supposed to be.

HG: Do you have a “day job” outside of your art? 

EG: I bartend part-time at Grandma’s House Brewing Company. It’s great. We have a million tchotchkes, an N64, and I get to cross-stitch in my free time. Beer is a plus!

HG: What does your perfect day look like?

EG: Dogs. Painting. Lover. Beer.

HG: What would you tell your younger self when you were first embarking on your artistic career? 

EG: Don’t water yourself down. You do you.

HG: Who are some of your current influences or inspirations? Have they changed over time? 

EG: Clive Barker, James Jean, Frank Frazetta, Basil Gogos. I’ve loved them for years and I’m not gonna stop anytime soon.

HG: What do you look for in the art of others? What would you hope people look for in your work? 

EG: I’m a fiend for color and patterns. I love psychedelic and immersive work, but I am also a sucker for the classics. I enjoy a tight rendering or master like painting skills. Mostly, I search for intent and joy in production in the work of others.
I hope that people are able to pick up on the sense of humor in my work. I take pride in my use of color, and hope that people have fun viewing my work. It’s not meant to be too serious.

HG: How long do you usually take to complete a piece? Do you work on multiple pieces si- multaneously? 

EG: Depending on what I’m working on, I can spend anywhere from 1 hour, to 120 hours on a painting. When I’m painting, I will usually paint for 8 hours straight within a day. Lately I have been juggling multiple pieces at time, but I prefer to focus all my efforts into one at a time.

HG: Do you use any unusual or “non-traditional” media in your work? 

EG: I will get my hands into and pigment that I can. Something I often use that I don’t see to many other artists utilizing is fabric dye.

HG: What’s the most indispensable item in your studio? 

EG: My precious aqua brushes.

HG: Do you listen to music/audio while you work or do you prefer to work in silence? Any bands or albums you’ve been enthralled by lately? 

EG: I need background noise to work. I’ll often watch cartoons, or ghost hunting shows while painting. Sometimes I’ll listen to a true crime podcast. If I am listening to music while I paint it’s usually Bossa Nova. My current listening obsessions are Last Podcast On the Left, and Tim Maia.

HG: Where do you currently live and how did you come to reside there? 

EG: Deeeeeeeenver! Born and raised, baby! I recently moved into an old brick duplex near the Baker area after the last home we rented was sold and torn down. With Denver’s growth and rising prices, I often feel like my time left here could be limited. I will hold on to the city I love for as long as possible.

HG: Outside of the craft you are known for, do you pursue any other artistic endeavors? 

EG: I’ve got lots of jokes! Most people think I should stick to the painting.

HG: If you could travel to any place on earth tomorrow, where would you go? 

EG: That amazing dog sanctuary in Costa Rica where hundreds of precious doggos frolic and play and live their best lives.

HG: What are you currently working on and what projects do you have coming up? 

EG: Currently, I’m working on an upcoming show for Tooey’s on Colfax. It’s called “Dance Macabre”, it’s inspired by psychedelica, romance, and murder.

HG: What is something most people don’t know about you? 

EG: I have a mole on my right butt cheek.

Thank you to Elena for participating in our interview! See her work in Hometown Heroes on view July 28 – September 1, and online at https://helikongallery.com/gallery/archive/hometown-heroes/. Visit Elena’s instagram @elenathunderson for more of her work.

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