There are a lot of artists making fantastic art, and with the advents of DeviantArt and Tumblr, we see more of it than ever.
Aunia Kahn is one of today’s dark arts heavy-hitters who has gone above and beyond the call of her tablet and camera. This entrepreneur is not only an accomplished digital artist and photographer, but has curated numerous art shows, runs her own art space at Alexi Era Gallery, runs an inspirational site and podcast over at Create & Inspire, and owns and runs Lokreign Publishing.
I got tired just typing that.
Aunia’s artwork is an amalgamation of various art forms, both traditional and non-traditional. Within her hybrid art, she designs and builds characters, dream-like environments, fables, and personal symbolism into an end result that is simultaneously a painting, photograph, and movie-still. Her female protagonists personify hope, despair, loss, triumph, and strength, all reflecting emotions, nostalgia, and memories that are both personal to the artist as well as reminiscent to the viewer of her work.
Needless to say, we at Dirge were giddy to get an interview with this accomplished (and busy!) artist.
Dirge: Tell me a bit about your newest series of work and your thoughts on the subject matter.
Aunia: First, I would like to thank you for the interview. To answer your question, my newest work has been inspired by recent international and national gallery exhibition themes. For instance, I recently created a series of pinups for Peepshow at Stranger Factory and I am working right now for the 3-person exhibition “Persona” at Bash Contemporary this March. On a more personal level, recovering from an illness and rediscovering who I am in the last few years has heavily inspired a lot of my newest work.
Can you tell us more about your background and what made you become an artist?
I was tremendously creative, like most children, and creativity was an integral part of my formative years; however I abandoned the idea that creativity could be utilized in a career. Plus, it was such a foreign idea that it was not even a passing thought as I started to think about a career choice. It was not until I succumbed to an illness that took me down a path of total mass destruction, chaos, and being undiagnosed with no answers for over a decade that drew me back into art so I could find some peace and solace in the chaos of my life circumstances. It’s always been very personal, yet once I shared it publicly and had my first exhibition I found that it helped others feel connected and touched lives. It was pleasantly surprising to learn about how art, even really dark art, can bring people together in a whole new language of self-discovery. I found my tribe.
Who/what are your best influences? Where are you finding ideas for your work?
A: My work is very heavy influenced by literature, film, and music. I love others’ artwork, but not for inspiration in my own work but for connecting – kindred spirits. I love to find a piece of art that speak volumes to me and I have a ravenous art collecting addiction. As for books, film, and music: the sounds, words, beat, theatrics, lyrics, cinematography, etc. all speak to me on emotional, psychological, and intimate levels which compels me to paint, draw, write and take photographs.
What are the most indispensable items in your studio?
A: My Wacom Cintiq, Pentel Graph Gear 1000 & Nikon. Everything else can burn in flames.
You’ve also been a curator, gallerist, motivational speaker, and more… you’re busy! What spurred all of these additional endeavors? How do they feed into each other? Have these experiences affected your artwork?
I am obsessed with learning and understanding the world in new ways. Creating art and working as a photographer are a couple of ways for me to understand, devour, and express my feelings of all that I understand in this life. However, branching out into curatorial ventures and group projects is an opportunity to work with other creatives and appreciate how they perceive and express their world – which is über fascinating. For example, as a young girl I used to make my own books. I challenged myself to be published as an adult through a publisher. So that became a goal as well as learning to curate, layout, and publish my own books giving me more control over the creative process too…I’m a graphic/web designer. In the end, everything I do and create melds together to bring me to a new understanding of the process of creativity. I adore the process of learning new things. It’s addictive.
How has your art/style changed since you first started?
In my opinion, it has changed quite a bit. My creative process was birthed from a place of severe illness and when I look back at the work I can see the illness in it and the effect it had. As I started to get better it’s interesting to see the work change. One of the biggest changes for me in the last three years was the ability to be well enough to tackle the technical aspects of my work – because I could finally focus and think more clearly. I also hope my work continues to change and evolve. I never want to be the same or be pigeonholed into something.
Please describe your typical work flow when you start to create a new piece of art?
A: When starting a new piece, I shoot from the hip. I come up with lots of little pieces and try to put them together. A lot of artists have the whole work mapped out and can see the full idea in their head, but for me I like to see this emerge as I work. I like to get a feel, and then I know what comes next. It’s rare when I know what the final piece will be at the beginning. It’s like the quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
What’s the first artwork you ever sold? And what was your reaction?
A: The first artwork I sold was a drawing in high school to a friend’s mother. At that age, it was so marvelous to be validated and feel that something you loved to create mattered to someone else.
You have had your hands in many aspects of the process of art, from the artist to the curator, as a gallerist and as a publisher as well. What’s your art-world pet peeve as an artist?
This is a great question! Personally my pet peeve is when people judge others work or creative endeavors without invitation as a way to lift themselves up. This does not only happen in the art world, it’s an epidemic of great proportions in all aspects of life. When I see or hear someone make a cruel statement about another persons work, it really upsets me. Creativity comes from spirit, and yes some people are not as advanced as others and maybe never will be – but who cares? Do your own work and be thankful another person is out there collectively willing to risk judgment, step into fear and bare their soul to the world.
Who’s your favorite artist(s) and why?
My favorite artist is anyone willing to follow their dream and create. I am enamored with the creative spirit of those around me and the ones I have never met. Some of my favorite artists are ones that I have yet to discover and maybe the world has also yet to discover.