Local Santa Monica artist Karen Kang is a mixed media artist and works throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Her work includes small scale mixed media, and large scale installations and murals.
Recently Diana Kohne Kenny (DKK) from Art Cricket LA was able to chat with Karen and ask her a few questions. Karen was happy to participate.
DKK – You’ve been working in LA as an artist for 6 years. For years your work has been small. When and why did you begin working large?
Karen – I began working large when I moved to a studio at Keystone Art Space. That was the first time I actually had big walls to work on, so it felt really freeing and like a new challenge to create something on them. Previously my art making was confined to a tiny room at home, so the art I made kind of reflected that.
DKK – What is your art-working schedule? Like what’s a typical art-working day like?
Karen – There is no typical day really, which the creative side of me likes. The projects I have vary, as does the time and process involved in exploring a new body of work. But that said, focused creative action is a constant, no matter what the day or current project may be.
DKK– I’ve heard you work primarily on the floor and don’t like to use tables?
Karen – Ha, yes, I have never been one to like sitting at a table or desk for long hours. The library was not my friend as a student. I like having a bigger work surface so that I can spread things out and see them.
DKK – You recently completed a large mural on the side of a building in Santa Monica. What was this mural for?
Karen – The mural was part of a project called Beautify Earth. Which started as a local project to beautify city walls on Lincoln Ave. in Santa Monica, and has now expanded to other cities as well.
DKK – I know you had a few interesting encounters with people passing on the street while you were painting. Can you tell us about the interactions that stand out?
Karen – Overall I just really enjoyed engaging with the public in such a direct way. People were genuinely interested in what was happening because it impacted their daily lives. They walk or drive by the building I was working on every day. I particularly enjoyed a few of my interactions with some homeless individuals, people for whom the outside world is their gallery space.
DKK – You were the first artist match for Art Cricket LA. Can you talk about the piece you’ve been commissioned to make?
Karen – I will be creating a large piece that is a mosaic of book cover pieces. It will have a similar geometric feel to an installation I did for Bombshell salon in Santa Monica this past fall that also used cut-up pieces of books.
Karen – It continues to get bigger in size and is also moving a bit more towards construction. As much as I like drawing and painting, I also enjoy building things and some of my new pieces will be moving in this direction.
DKK – What are your goals as an artist for the next few years? Any long-term goals?
Karen – One of my goals is to keep pursuing public art opportunities. This direction fits well with my non-profit background and allows for meaningful engagement with the public, which is a lot of fun. I still plan on pursuing my studio art career as well and have plans for some new large-scale installations. A long-term dream would be to have a huge paper installation in MOCA someday, something on par with Jacob Hashimoto’s Gas Giant.
DKK – What are your biggest accomplishments artistically? Like, work wise and also resume-wise.
Karen – Just even being an artist at all is a success, I think. I’ve seen that sentiment quoted before and never really understood it until now. It is not a traditional path and there is not traditional support for it like there may be for other life pursuits, so the path itself can be a big obstacle to conquer.
That said, being chosen for a small pool of pre-qualified artists for temporary installations at LAX was exciting and felt affirming of my most recent body of work. And painting the mural, along with the added challenge of doing it freehand, felt like an accomplishment, especially since it was the first time I’d ever done one.
DKK – Thank you Karen for the interview. I look forward to working together in the future.