Allison Kunath, an artist whose light shines so bright you can’t help but to want to know her more.
My first interaction with Allison was in an old dive bar near the beach that smelt of old beach bums, accompanied by the sounds of a jukebox that had been taken over by ’90s rock. When she walked in I first noticed her smile, so kind and welcoming to see someone smile so big for no apparent reason. When introduced I was utterly surprised to receive a hug as big and encompassing as my own. It was in that moment of embrace that I felt the authentic energy of this other human and was instantly curious to know who she was, what was her story?
I soon discovered she was an artist, who’s work was based primarily around the thoughts of connection. Her ability to share herself and uncover you in a conversation was intoxicating. She spoke humbly about herself, her work, and life. Giving equal time to listen, respond, and remember the interaction she was engaged in, this only enhanced my curiosity and now my love for her work.
When I visited Allsion at her studio in Venice, California we were able to dig in to the ins and outs of who she is. I have never met a true artist that is simple in thought or feeling and Allsion is neither of those things. When asked about the meaning of her work she described it in many ways but this stood out most:
“My work has always been my favorite way to connect, both with myself, and with others. My work makes visible my inner processes in ways that are really helpful, and also really challenging. The more fascinated I become with communication, and how we share ourselves, the more important my work becomes. I think publicly spilling my guts helps me be more comfortable in my own skin.”
This answer of “publicly spilling my guts helps me be more comfortable in my own skin” led me to me my next question.
How do you feel about collaborations with commercial companies and the voice they give your art?
Overall, I feel extremely lucky to live in a place (and time) where I’ve been invited into interesting collaborations and commercial partnerships. I’ve made some work I’m really proud of with companies I really respect. The more that corporations turn to artists to humanize and legitimize their brands, the more opportunities creatives have. For the most part I think that’s awesome, a win-win. Though I’ve often had to check myself to make sure that my motivations are clear, and that these collaborations allow me to stay true to myself and my voice. I spend a little extra time considering each collaboration and brand partnership. Aware that the ‘wrong’ move in the commercial world could limit me in the fine art world in the future.
With mention of the fine art world I had to ask: Do you want to be a part of that world?
What I really want is for my work to make the deepest impact on the greatest number people possible. I think the solution lies in a combination of high exposure murals, and potent gallery work. I’m really looking forward to some nesting time in the studio in between trips to push into the fine art world with more focus and direction this year.
So how do you want your work to be perceived?
I almost hate to answer this question! I find it most fascinating to hear how people perceive my work. I’m not sure if it’s more rewarding to have someone mirror back the experience I had in mind when creating a piece, or for them to share something so polar opposite that I learn something new about my creation and see a different side of it.
You are now branching out into several creative mediums: ceramics, fabric dying, jewelry etc. — why?
I experiment with new mediums half way out of curiosity, half way out of necessity. Curiosity moves me in different directions because there are just so many different things to try. I’m hungry for change and growth, and playing with new mediums and processes keeps me forever in that space. The flip side of that is the sheer necessity of mixing it up to stay engaged and active. Nothing gets me out of a painting slump like picking up a ball of clay, or messing around with block prints.
Did you know from a young age that art was going to be your path or did you find yourself drawn to it in later years?
Art has always been a big part of my life. From a young age I definitely had the dream of making a career in art – but I spent most of my life believing it wasn’t possible. I had all these inherited beliefs that kept me from pursuing it (it’s unrealistic, it won’t be sustainable, the work isn’t good enough). I got a BFA in graphic design and spent a few years tiptoeing around the title of ‘artist’ before committing full time.
What made you paint a painter (Georgia O’Keefe)?
When I was first exploring the geometric style that I often work in these days, portraits were my favorite test-ground. Painting recognizable faces was the best way to see if the style was translating. A handful of drawings turned into a full series of portraits inspired by some of my heroes and heroines. Georgia O’Keefe was the first portrait I took from paper and ink to a large scale canvas. That 2012 piece was a step-stool leading into murals, and it’s still one of my favorite works on canvas.
Who are some artists that inspire you now?
Right now, I’m really digging the work of Heather Day, Zio Ziegler, Richard Colman, Erik Jones… to name a few.
You just took a trip to Mexico, what did you discover about yourself, your work and life on this trip?
Last year, I spent a couple weeks away from my work with the intention of unplugging and doing some solid reading and writing. Instead, I spent most of my time tripping out about being away from the studio, worrying about the ground I was losing in the meantime, and what needed to be done when I returned. That trip made me realize how much of my ego was tied up in my work, and how much of my happiness was dependent on my creative output. This year, I approached my trips with that in mind, and made it my main objective to actually detach from the work so I could make space for fresh inspiration and rejuvenation. I spent a lot of time near water that was way more tropical than I’m used to. I suppose it sort of flipped an appreciation switch on in my brain, helping me take stock of all the things in my life that I never thought I’d have. I guess when things show up better than you expected, it might be time for bigger, more vivid dreams.
When do you feel most free?
I love this question. Lately I feel like my whole life has become a pursuit of greater freedom, and ways to help others feel more free. Sunshine, the ocean, and a breeze wins every time. But when I’m able to fully express myself, and be unafraid of how I’m received – that’s when I feel the most free.
When I reflect back on this talk with Allsion I see her as an artist that dips into herself and the connections she has made to paint her own nature. The lines of connection have taken on so many new meaning for me and I hope you enjoy them too!
Thank you Allison! We’ll catch up with you soon!
This post comes from our friend Melodi Meadows.