Mark Sink is a true leader in the emerging Denver art scene, that he coincidentally helped create. Sink co-founded

Mark Sink

MCA | Denver literally in his backyard, he also established his own gallery, Gallery Sink, and currently sits on the board for Illiterate. Sink also curates shows regularly for galleries and venues such as Redline.

As an artist, he is well known for his imagery made with the toy plastic camera, the Diana. Currently, also a reverse technology, he is producing collodion wet plate photographs. His personal work is in numerous museum collections as well as gallery solo and group shows around the world. He is currently represented by G. Ray Hawkins in CA, Robin Rice in NY, and Rule Gallery in Denver.

The prolific photographer is no stranger to Denver, he was born here, went through the public school system, and graduated from Metro State. He is also no stranger to the infamous New York art scene in the 80s. He rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Rene Ricard while living in NYC during the 80s.

I recently sat down with Mark and asked him a few questions:

Where are you from?

I grew up in Denver, went to school at Metro State, then I met Warhol and moved to NYC for the 1980s. Moved back in the early 90s and co-founded MCA | Denver in my back yard. I also started my own gallery and a photography salon, The Denver Salon.

What is your art background/training?

Artist parents and art photography classes at Metro.

How long have you be doing art?

All my life. And made a living from it all my life.

How did you get involved with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and “The Factory”?

I met Andy in Ft. Collins at CSU. I tracked him down and found him alone signing posters, we became friends and he hired me to work for Interview magazine. It was a dream come true.

Andy Warhol portrait by Mark Sink

I met Jean-Michel in New York and we photographed his work. I also spent quite a lot of time with him leading up to shows. It was very surreal-the drugs and money. I was pretty convinced that the market was going to fall out, that Warhol and Jean-Michel were over-hyped, over-producing, and over-pricing. I pulled back from being a “factory kid” after a couple of years. Andy never paid me anything, but I wanted to have him to promote me as an artist. Many of my favorite stories of that time are of a critic who I spent a lot of time with, during the art boom of the 80’s, Rene Ricard. He made and was the court critic for Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, Keith Haring and others. He brought Basquiat into instant fame, single-handedly. I have a lot of shocking stories of how and why people were found. I’m still basically in stunned amazement of the power of the pen and how it forms our thought process about something or someone. I am very press dependent with my gallery and my Internet projects.

Briefly describe your style:

Living life on the edge. Never growing up. Not settling down. Most of my friends are half my age. A bit reckless. I speak critically and truthfully about things sometimes shocking, which is distressing for some people. I don’t play games…just like to tell it like it is. That causes a lot of problems. It gives you a reputation of being a loose gun.

Briefly describe you philosophy:

Got to let yourself go to chance, let chance happen. Follow your heart not money. Less is more in design, food and finding happiness.

Jean-Michel Basquiat by Mark Sink

Having lived and worked in New York City during the 80’s, what are your perceptions of being a photographer in both cities?

Well, New York is, of course, a very exciting place to be during your twenties and thirties. It was where I went to grad school and more. I miss it greatly. I wore many hats to survive as a working photographer and made vast amounts of money in the commercial world. But, creatively, I was very empty. Therefore, I concisely started to immerse myself into the gallery world, cataloguing artwork rather than clothing. I also started doing my personal art again. I bloomed, was very happy-and very broke. Also, it was very surreal being around the superstar art world, seeing fortunes trading hands for the flavor of the month. There seemed to be a very big gap between the haves and the have-nots. Denver began to look better and better with every visit. I had established a few galleries and agents, so I decided to move where there would be a higher quality lifestyle for the money. I purchased a 19th Century house in a bad neighborhood (the ethnic diversity felt most like New York City) and started my life here. The house jumped in value as the neighborhood gentrified, which allowed me to purchase my gallery building. I was very lucky that I wasn’t pushed out of the neighborhood, like most of the other artists living there. In general, the old line, “it’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond,” was true for me, in Denver. For example, starting a contemporary art museum. That would have been a joke to try in New York City.

What are your feelings towards the Denver art scene?

Denver is kind of like Prague, not east coast, not west coast. Denver is germinating it’s own wonderful scene here in the middle. Great talented young artists are constantly coming up with fresh new spaces and multimedia art venues, like Illiterate, Rhinoceropolis and Hinterland. We have great new museums and giant new spaces everywhere; Redline, Dry Ice Factory, and dozens more- all new within this last couple years. I find that very exciting.

Lina by Mark Sink

When is your next show?

I have a show up now at Theory and Practice gallery and one at CORE gallery, both venues are located on Santa Fe in the art district. I am currently working on curating shows at Redline, and also working on a giant photo project for March 2011 called MOP (Month of Photography) / Denver. I get all the galleries and museums and art venues to do photo related projects, I love to stir the pot and get momentum of everyone together to celebrate photography. It will have lectures, portfolio reviews and fun parties!

Any comments or words of wisdom for a young artist?

The greatest artists never sold work when they started, in my opinion money wrecks art and the art creation process. One has to follow their passion and heart and make work with reckless abandon and not even consider if it will sell or not. That is when great work is made.