Behind the Scenes at the DAM

Q&A with Nick Cave

Nick Cave transforms mundane, often-overlooked, and under-appreciated bric-a-brac into objects of undeniable aesthetic value that ask us, as viewers, to reconsider how we see the world we live in. In the spirit of this approach, we decided to pose a handful of questions to Cave that might seem at first to be simple or strange, but in the end yield surprising insights. Dozens of artworks that Cave created are on view in Nick Cave: Sojourn now.

Denver Art Museum: Do you have a favorite word? If so, what is it, and what do you like about it?

Nick Cave: Truth. It is what sets you free.

DAM: What sounds do you most love?

NC: The sounds from my Soundsuits.

Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2009

© the artist, photo courtesy Denver Art Museum

Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2009 © the artist, photo courtesy Denver Art Museum

DAM: Music and dance have played a major role in your life; did you have a favorite song when you were a kid?

NC:  No, but as a kid I was very inspired by The Jackson 5.

DAM: In Kyle MacMillan’s essay for the exhibition catalog, Nick Cave: Sojourn, you recount a childhood memory of you and your six brothers lying on the ground and feeling a sense of wonder when you'd find a constellation. Do you have a favorite constellation? Or is there one that "centers" you wherever you might be in the world?  

NC: No, not a favorite, but I create my own from what I see on any given starry night.

DAM: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

NC: My profession is already providing more for me than I ever imagined and that is to provide for the world experiences that make personal differences for anyone who encounters them. I feel grateful for the work that I do.

DAM: Playing in part on the idea of people rescuing real dogs from animal shelters, your self-standing sculptural works titled “Rescues” are built around life-size replicas of dogs you've rescued from flea markets and antique stores.    

If any of your “Rescues” could talk, to either you or an exhibition visitor, what do you  imagine they would say? 

NC: "I matter."

Nick Cave, Rescue, 2013

© the artist, photo courtesy Denver Art Museum

Nick Cave, Rescue, 2013 © the artist, photo courtesy Denver Art Museum

DAM: If you don't already have a spirit animal, what would it be and why? 

NC: Bald eagle, because it is strong, free and a symbolic leader. 

DAM: If heaven exists, and the first thing God asked you when you arrived at those "pearly gates" was to create a new entrance, what would you make?

NC: It would be a fabulous repository for personal relics. Everyone who passes through could leave a symbol of themselves that would build the most magical collection of our unique selves.

Renée B. Miller is the curatorial assistant in the modern and contemporary department. Renée has been at the DAM since 2008. She recommends that visitors don’t miss Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery on level 2 of the Hamilton Building.