It had to be. Joe Riche (MFA ’00) becoming an artist, that is. At age 4 he was already grasping some of the finer points of art — at his grandmother’s house.
She had a small replica sculpture of the Greek goddess Venus — you know, without the arms.
“I remember thinking that without the arms it didn’t have to be a human figure; it could be whatever I brought to it,” Riche explains.
From there he discovered more about art growing up in New Orleans, but he says he never understood it could be a career until his first few days in college at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“I remember wandering into the art and design facilities and instantly knew that was my path,” Riche says.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Lafayette, Riche began researching graduate programs outside of the South. “I liked DU’s studio and equipment specs,” he says. “That was extremely important, because I was focusing on sculpture.”
As he was finishing his degree at DU, Riche made a grand entry onto the art scene with “The Motoman Project,” a series of performances around the United States that featured huge radio-controlled jet engines and spewing flamethrowers. Riche describes the project as a way to “counteract the synthetic bubble that most people live in.”
At the same time, Riche began making a name for himself and changing the face of Denver. One of his projects, “Trade Deficit,” is a trio of sculptures along Broadway at Lawrence, Larimer and Blake streets made from colorful metal shipping containers.
But that’s just part of Riche’s story. Making his own art was the start of something much bigger: his own sculpture production studio in Denver that produces and installs monumental public-art sculptures for national and international artists all around North America.
Called Demiurge, the studio has worked with artists like artist Will Ryman, who transformed Park Avenue in New York City with 38 sculptures of rose blossoms towering up to 25 feet, complemented by 20 scattered rose petals. Another recent Demiurge project involves work with artists Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan on a new piece for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science titled “Iridescent Cloud.” The artwork will open to the public at the same time as the new addition to the museum in February 2014.
Riche says he now gets the satisfaction of solving structural and sculptural issues while working with artists on their own work.
“I feel I get much more exposure to developing methods in art by building work for others rather than only focusing on my own directions.”