Our annual tenant exhibition, Denizen III, is on view now through May 30th. In conjunction with the show we asked studio tenant Melinda Kern a few questions about her art and life. Check out her thoughts below:

1. Did you aspire to be an artist, or did you fall in love with making art?

Both! I was lucky enough to grow up in an environment that encouraged art making and used art as a method of teaching. From learning to read to learning another language, everything was introduced using imagery, visual cues, the art of storytelling, and the performing arts. This artistic foundation paved the way for an inherent love of art and provided the support necessary to help me reach my goals. It inspired me in many ways to continue the tradition and teach others in the same way, documenting experiences and mutual feelings among mankind to bring awareness to alternative perspectives and a balanced outlook on the world we live in.

"Charles." Oil, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011.
“Charles.” Oil, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2011.

2. Who are some of your current influences or inspirations? Have they changed over time?

Erik jones, Jenny Morgan, Kris Lewis and Kurt Lewis, Josh Keys, Laura Ball, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Francis Bacon, to name but a few. Many of my contemporary influences have changed recently as I discover more and more artists that are creating incredibly intricate work and finding methods that push the boundaries in new ways, such as Erik Jones, where painting and sculpture become one. There are many master painters and more traditional artists that will always remain an influence and inspiration to me however, such as Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi for their precision in rendering the human figure and dramatic chiaroscuro.

"Bare Witness," Mixed media and acrylic on plywood, 36 x 36 inches, 2010.
“Bare Witness,” Mixed media and acrylic on plywood, 36 x 36 inches, 2010.

3. How long do you usually take to complete a piece? Do you work on multiple pieces simultaneously?

A piece can take anywhere from eight hours to a couple of months to complete, depending not on the scale of the work, but on the detail. I remember starting Making a Mark and preparing for a long journey ahead. While this was one of my larger pieces, it was also one where everything seemed to fall into place in just a couple of sittings. This piece contains a loose style, with large spontaneous brush strokes, and a simple approach in which areas of detail are suggested rather than being fully rendered. While I could have continued to render the portrait, this loose and gestural approach was more successful in capturing the expression I wanted to portray.

"Making a Mark." Oil, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 66 x 50 inches, 2011.
“Making a Mark.” Oil, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 66 x 50 inches, 2011.

4. Do you use any unusual or “non-traditional” media in your work?

My work draws on traditional practices using oil and acrylic paint, however I love to experiment and work in mixed media, integrating collage into my paintings and two dimensional work. These varying layers act as both structural components of the piece and as objects with which the figures depicted can interact. Having always been interested in textiles for their intricacies in pattern and texture, collage allows me to create a juxtaposition in my work that seems to resemble these materials by drawing upon the busy designs against a more neutral or flat background.

"Caught Between Connect." Oil, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 40 x 56 inches, 2013.
“Caught Between Connect.” Oil, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 40 x 56 inches, 2013.

5. If you could travel to any place on earth tomorrow, where would you go?

Croatia – I have always wanted to visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park after seeing a documentary about the network of lakes and waterfalls that snake through the rich green forests there. Since I haven’t been yet or accomplished this goal, I think it’s about time I crossed it off the list. Then I’d pop home to England to see the family on my way back.

"Caught Between Connect II." Oil, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 40 x 56 inches, 2013.
“Caught Between Connect II.” Oil, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 40 x 56 inches, 2013.
"Untitled"
“Untitled”

Thank you to Melinda for participating in our interview. You can view more of her work in Denizen III or online at www.melindaakern.com.

For more information on Helikon Gallery and Studios, visit www.helikongallery.com.

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