Interview with Content Magazine

Interview with Content Magazine

Many thanks to Daniel Garcia from Content Magazine for episode #48 Marianne McGrath – Independent Art Curator and Consultant- MKM Art Consulting. I appreciate your time and support! Interview with Daniel Garcia, the Cultivator at Content Magazine
Marianne K. McGrath is a Los Gatos, California, local who used her background in art and art history to build her own business, MKM Art Consulting, LLC., to practice curating, art consulting, and art education. Marianne holds a BA in art and 3-D design, as well as an MA in art history from San Jose State University. Her passion for art led her to a career focused on sharing art with the community, especially seen through her work with the New Museum Los Gatos (formerly The Museums of Los Gatos). Art exhibits and projects hosted by MKM Art Consulting include “To Hear and Be Heard” and “31 Women.”
In our conversation, Marianne explains how her life path led her to be an art exhibit curator which she see as vitaul role in helping advance artists’ careers.
“I think art is a reflection of the community. Art gives us an opportunity to know each other better, and to understand ourselves, to make us think and ask questions, help us change, and foster empathy.”
– Daniel Garcia, The Cultivator at Content Magazine
Find out more about Marianne’s work at:
Music for this episode is “Time Alone” by Mild Monk
Follow him at:
IG: @MildMonkMusic
Spotify: Mild Monk
Read interview with Mild Monk in issue 12.0 

To Hear and Be Heard – Roberto Lugo

To Hear and Be Heard

Roberto Lugo

Roberto Lugo is an American artist, ceramicist, social activist, spoken word poet and educator. Lugo uses porcelain as his medium of choice, illuminating its aristocratic surface with imagery of poverty, inequality and social and racial injustice. Lugo’s works are multicultural mashups; traditional European and Asian porcelain forms and techniques reimagined with a 21st-century street sensibility. Their hand-painted surfaces feature classic decorative patterns and motifs combined with elements of modern urban graffiti and portraits of individuals whose faces are historically absent on this type of luxury item – people like Sojourner Truth, Dr. Cornel West, and The Notorious BIG, as well as Lugo’s family members and, very often, himself. 

Lugo holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Penn State. His work has been featured in exhibitions at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the Clay Studio in Philadelphia, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, among others. His solo exhibition at the Walters Museum of Art received international acclaim, earning a spot in Hyperallergic’s “Top 20 exhibitions of 2018.” 

Lugo is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently including a 2019 Pew Fellowship, a Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize and a US Artist Award. His work is found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, High Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Brooklyn Museum, Walters Museum, and more. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art and Architecture.

Tupac/MLK Tea Set, 2020
Glazed ceramic, enamel, and luster
Teapot: 6.75” x 9” x 5.25”
Creamer: 4.5” x 5” x 3.5”
2 Cups: 4” x 5” x 3.5” each
Courtesy of Wexler Gallery
Photo Credit: KeneK Photography

Tupac/MLK Teapot and Tea Set

The portraits on Roberto Lugo’s porcelain vessels feature athletes, actors and exemplary citizen activists like Harriet Tubman and Angela Davis, musicians such as Nina Simone, or paired portraits, as in this work with Martin Luther King and Tupac on opposite sides of a tea pot “in conversation.” Lugo reminds us, “Usually when people sit down and drink tea, it’s more than one person and it happens around a conversation. There’s more implied than just the consumption of tea.”1 What if we could sit down and have a conversation with these people? What would you talk about? More broadly consider what could we learn, what could we solve, if We the People sat together and listened to each other? 

1 Bessie Rubenstein, “Meet Roberto Lugo, the Potter Making Ceramics of Biggie and Basquiat”, interview with Roberto Lugo, Interview Magazine, March 17, 2020.

Artist Statement

I am a potter, social activist, spoken word poet, and educator. All of these roles are rooted in my childhood. Having had no formal music or art training, I often practiced table drumming and writing hip-hop lyrics as it was customary to “battle rap” during lunch. Instead of art class, I drew in my composition book, and marked every wall that I could. “Graffiti” was a way to get my name into the community, to attain a local fame. 

Today my graffiti is defacing social inequality. I teach communities to make mosaic murals to honor victims of gun violence. I see my pottery as a process of transforming the ground we walk on into something we eat from; we search all day for the perfect spot to put it on display. In many ways this transformation of tragedy into triumph is a metaphor for my life’s story. 

My experiences as an indigent minority inform my version of Puerto Rican American history. With my education in critical theory, art education, art history and studio art I have developed a studio practice that fluidly communicates with diverse audiences. I bring art to those that do not believe they need to see it, and engage in deeper ways of knowing, learning and thinking. – Roberto Lugo

To Hear and Be Heard – Alice Beasley

To Hear and Be Heard

Alice Beasley

Fabric is Alice Beasley’s chosen medium of expression through which she creates realistic portraits of people and objects. Beasley finds color, light, shadow, line and value in the pattern of ordinary household fabrics. From these fabrics she snips small pieces which are arranged and fused into figurative compositions. As such, the work grows from within rather than being applied to the surface of a canvas by paint, pencil or similar drawing tools. When the image is complete, Beasley sews the composition together; the stitch line constituting the final “drawn” line.

Alice Beasley’s work has been exhibited in many venues throughout the United States including the American Folk Art Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum. Abroad, her work has exhibited in countries around the globe, from Spain and France to Japan and Namibia. Beasley’s work has been purchased or commissioned by a number of private collectors and public entities including the County of Alameda, Kaiser Hospital, Highland Hospital and the Sunnyvale Medical Facility.

Alice Beasley
Unidentified Black Male, 2015
Fabric composition of needle-felted wool, cotton and cheesecloth on gallery wrapped canvas.
“36 X 24”
Courtesy of the Artist

Unidentified Black Male

Alice Beasley was prompted to make Unidentified Black Male after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Beasley states “As bad as Newtown was, the reality is that black children and teens are the primary victims of gun deaths. Of the 5700 children and teens who died from gunfire in 2008 and 2009, 60% were black, eight times the death rate for white children and teens. But, unlike Newton, these deaths are cloaked in anonymity and draw no concern from public or media.” 

While the original impetus for Unidentified Black Male was young unknown victims of gun violence, this work urges us to consider the many unknown victims of police brutality and the overwhelming magnitude of how many people of color have been abused or murdered over the centuries; the loss of life appallingly excluded from justice and history. 

Alice Beasley
No Vote, No Voice, 2014
Quilt composed of cotton and silk fabrics
60” X 36”
Courtesy of the Artist

No Vote, No Voice

One of our most important actions as citizens is exercising our right to vote. Over the years, the United States has taken steps forward in enfranchisement for citizens, as well as steps backward. Alice Beasley says she was inspired to make No Vote, No Voice when “In 2013 a conservative majority in the Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, thereby becoming complicit in the active suppression of the votes of minority citizens by state legislatures. Over the past six years—and for the first time since the Jim Crow era—nearly two dozen states have passed new laws making it harder to vote.” Voting challenges continue today and extend beyond legislative injustice with concerns about COVID19 and the US Postal Service. Nevertheless, we must persist! Your vote is your voice, so let it be heard. To register to vote, check your registration and get important voting dates, visit:

To Hear and Be Heard – Brian Dettmer

To Hear and Be Heard

Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer (b. 1974, Chicago, IL) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at numerous institutions including the Hermann Geiger Foundation, Cecina, Italy, The International Museum of Surgical Science, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. His works have been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design, The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute, The Chicago Cultural Center, The High Museum, and the Perez Art Museum among others. Dettmer’s sculptures can be found in the permanent collection of several institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The High Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery. He has been featured in several publications including The New York TimesThe GuardianThe TelegraphChicago TribuneArt NewsModern Painters, WiredThe Village VoiceHarper’sCBS News and NPR

Dettmer’s Problem Attic series was featured in the exhibition To Hear and Be Heard, which examines civility through the visual language of fine art. His work encourages us to consider the impact of information we willingly/unwillingly consume daily. In describing the inspiration and process for his work, Dettmer tells us, “Information is the raw material of today. We have an overabundance of text and imagery constantly at our fingertips. In digital media, it is often as fleeting as it is abundant, but when information is put in print we have a stronger sense of its relation to history and its stability for the future. In my work, I question this stability and ask what erasure and loss could look like through the lens of printed matter. Reference books have become almost extinct in less than one generation and we are at a pivotal time in the way we record and distribute facts. Without a stable home to rest in, our agreed truths have been uprooted and are now subject to distortions, erasures, and intentional manipulations. Through a meticulous process of sculptural excavation, I explore the inner contents of vintage books that have often been relegated to collecting dust or headed for a landfill. The work is both archival and anti-archival. It is a creation through consumption, an exposure through erasure. These sculptures break down historic narratives to offer a compression of ideas through a single surface, embracing us with a desire to reconstruct. This abundance of fragmented history reminds us that we are just one part of the bigger picture, as fleeting as the media we create and as permanent as the ideas we surround ourselves with.”

The Problem Attic Series

The Problem Attic Series – Artist Statement

The Problem Attic series revisits a handful of publications of Coronet, a small general interest digest magazine from the 1950’s and 60’s. With Rockwellesque style pin-up covers, semi-salacious short stories, general non-fiction, and advertisements for everything from cigarettes to appliances, the magazine paints a picture of an ideal mid-century suburban lifestyle that is extremely problematic from today’s perspective. Sexism and white male conformity saturate the pages, and unfortunately much of the text and imagery found and revealed echo many of the attitudes and issues still facing us today. Fragmented texts take on new meaning in 2020, as we face the Coronavirus pandemic and issues of sexism and racism in our society. Coronet, meaning small crown, comes from the Latin word “corona”. The title becomes broken and shortened in various forms within these works, creating an undeniable reference to the most pressing subject on our minds today.  

To Hear and Be Heard – Lisa Kokin

To Hear and Be Heard

Lisa Kokin

Lisa Kokin lives and works in El Sobrante with her spouse Lia, three canine studio assistants and Bindi the cat. The daughter of upholsterers, she stitches everything she can get her hands on, including discarded books which she rescues from the local recycling center. Kokin brings a fiber sensibility and a conceptual approach to a diverse array of materials. Her work is often a commentary on the world around her, often incorporating the age-old Jewish response to adversity, humor.

Kokin has been the recipient of multiple awards and commissions, including a Eureka Fellowship, a WESTAF/NEA Regional Fellowship, the Dorothy Saxe Invitational Award for Creativity in Contemporary Arts, the Alameda County Arts Commission (multiple venues), and the Richmond Civic Center Public Art Interior Acquisitions Project. Her work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Boise Art Museum, the Buchenwald Memorial, the di Rosa Preserve, Mills College, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, Yale University Art Museum, and Tiffany & Co.

Kokin’s work is represented by Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, CA and Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum, ID.

Let Them Eat Cake

At first glance these delicate works might make one recall a time when royalty ate cakes off of doilies and civility was equated with good manners. Legend has it that Marie Antoinette callously replied “let them eat cake” when she learned her subjects had no bread to eat. That problematic sense of entitlement and insensitivity is what inspired Lisa Kokin to make the works in Let Them Eat Cake, which are part of her Lucreseries. Kokin tells us, “I like money in its shredded state because it is stripped of value and power. Worthless, it becomes just so much green and white confetti. It is literally not worth the paper it’s printed on. As I separate each strip, the patterns, letters, numbers, and gradations of color are more striking than when the bills are intact. Washington’s heavy-lidded eyes, references to higher powers, cryptic serial numbers, seals and signatures, scrolls and flourishes. When sliced-up and decontextualized, money is really quite mysterious and beautiful. No one values money in this impotent state. It no longer has the ability to poison relationships, threaten democracy, topple governments, create privilege and misery. Stitched together with metallic thread into textile fragments… the material is re-contextualized with a new value and purpose.” 


Countenance is part of Lisa Kokin’s Denominate, her current series of collages made with shredded U.S. currency. She decided to use the mask form because it has become so ubiquitous and is symbolic of much. During the pandemic we wear masks to protect our health and our fellow citizens, showing respect for each other’s lives. Kokin uses only black, white and grey pieces of currency, also potentially symbolic as racism has been compared to a pandemic. Kokin says, “As political events become more convoluted and disturbing, my work has evolved into a more minimalist response. Gluing tiny pieces of money together using a tweezers and miniscule gluing brush, I find comfort and serenity in lining up edges and staying within the self-imposed lines. Despite the limited parameters, I am able to improvise and let each piece evolve without a preconceived notion of the outcome. Cellphones, mazes, and masks are the forms with which I began the series. Thirty or so collages later, I switched to zeros…I am intrigued by the paradox of making zeros from something ostensibly valuable, although money in its shredded state is devoid of value, of course. Holes and emptiness preoccupy me these days as we live through the challenges of the pandemic and an administration seemingly immune to its devastating effects.”

To Hear and Be Heard – Julie Heffernan

To Hear and Be Heard

Julie Heffernan

Julie Heffernan is an American painter whose artwork has been described by the writer Rebecca Solnit as “a new kind of history painting” and by The New Yorker as “ironic rococo surrealism with a social-satirical twist.” Portraiture is a dominant subject in Heffernan’s painting, even while she also reflects on environmental, (art) historical, feminist, literary, social, and political subjects.

Heffernan was raised in Northern California, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking and painting from University of California at Santa Cruz, and earned a Master of Fine Arts at Yale School of Art. She is a Professor of Fine Arts at Montclair State University and Co-founder of the journal Painters on Paintings. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

In 2011, Heffernan was elected a National Academician to the National Academy of Design in New York and in 2014, to the Board of Governors. She is a 2017 Fellow of the BAU Institute at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France; was awarded the Meridian Scholar Artist-In-Residence Fellowship from the University of Tampa in Florida and was the featured artist for the 2017 MacDowell Colony. In 2013, Heffernan was awarded a Milton And Sally Avery Fellowship at MacDowell and in 2012, she was invited to be the Lee Ellen Fleming Artist-In-Residence at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In 2010, she was the Commencement Speaker for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and in 2009, she was the featured artist at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, a Fulbright-Hayes grant to Berlin, Heffernan was also a nominee for the “Anonymous Was A Woman” award. Since 1999, Heffernan has had more than 50 solo exhibitions at museums and other venues across the United States and abroad. Her work is represented in 25 museum and institutional collections. She has been represented by Catharine Clark Gallery since 2005.

Julie Heffernan
Self-Portrait with Eruption, 2019
Oil on canvas
68” X 55”
Courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery

Self-Portrait with Eruption

What is the artist’s role in society? Creator? Cultural Influencer? Visual Historian? Activist?

In Julie Heffernan’s Self-Portrait with Eruption the artist is all of the above, paintbrushes and cans of paint at the ready. Draped across her hands she presents a painted scroll illustrating  “double-sided” narratives of the past, which include, Currier and Ives’ The Last War Whoop; The Bath by Jean-Leon Geromeand In the Harem by Vincent G. Stiepevich. Behind the artist is a gallery wall filled with painted portraits of exemplary citizen activists that courageously worked for social and environmental justice.   

Who are these citizen activists? Women from history and present day that have spoken out and taken action to expose and correct societal problems, creating a new narrative and a more civil, inclusive and sustainable future. (From top left to bottom right) Civil rights activist Rosa Parkswell known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott, which set in motion nationwide efforts to end racial segregation. Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American human rights activist, worked with Malcolm X for civil rights, and dedicated her life to social justice as an advocate for prisoners, nuclear disarmament and Japanese American reparations. Ella Baker, an African American civil and human rights activist, worked alongside W.E.B. Dubois, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King Jr., playing a key role in organizations such as the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, among others. Ida B. Wells, an African American investigative journalist, educator and activist who brought attention to the horrors of lynching, was an early leader in civil rights and women’s suffrage, and participated in the founding of the NAACP. Sylvia Earle, an American oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer, the founder of Mission Blue, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, and the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Frances Beinecke, NRDC’s president from 2006 to 2015, worked on finding solutions to some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time, including establishing a clean energy future that curbs climate change, reviving the world’s oceans, defending endangered wildlife and wild places, protecting our health by preventing pollution, fostering sustainable communities, and ensuring safe and sufficient water. 

To Hear and Be Heard – Chelsea Wong

To Hear and Be Heard

Chelsea Wong

Chelsea Wong
Sea of Change, 2020
Gouache and watercolor on paper
22.5” x 21” 
Courtesy of the Artist 

Sea of Change and Freedom

Imagine a world where civility is commonplace. What would that world look like? Chelsea Ryoko Wong envisions such a citizenry with colorful paintings that depict people of all ages and colors happily gathered together or walking lockstep. The poetic text accompanying her imagery often conveys the collective intention of building community, supporting one another and being “our best selves”. 

In Freedom and Sea of Change we see empowered groups confidently celebrating the future and one another. Wong says that “these paintings reflect a sense of hope and joy. 2020 has been a series of unfolding, seismic events, producing anxiety and demanding change. To conquer fear, I jump optimistically into the unknown. With figures, I evoke a sense of familiarity and celebrate the magnificent diverse beings that we are. I use bright colors because they make me happy and tickle the spirit. I paint small poems that are hopeful wishes. These paintings conjure the senses, ushering in this new era, I am sending hope into the world, filling the void with unrestrained optimism and exultation.”

Chelsea Wong
Freedom, 2020
Gouache and watercolor on paper
12” x 9”
Courtesy of the Artist

About the Artist

Chelsea Ryoko Wong (b. 1986, Seattle) is a painter and muralist whose vibrant figure compositions reflect the diversity and style of her home in San Francisco. Through the use of watercolor, gouache and acrylic techniques, Wong creates busy scenes of co-mingling people drawing from real-life events and her imagination. Her work is known for celebrating racial and cultural diversity, promoting working class communities and evoking a sense of curiosity and wonder. Through heavily stylized and idyllic imagery, Wong creates an encouraging visual statement promoting joy, acceptance and openness to one another.

Wong began her studies at Parsons School of Design and finished at California College of the Arts with a B.A. in Printmaking. She is the first recipient of the Hamaguchi Emerging Artists Fellowship award at Kala in Berkeley, CA and has recently completed a mural for the FB AIR Program in San Francisco, CA.

31 Women: March 1-31, 2020

31 Women: March 1 – 31, 2020

31 Women catalog cover and logo designed by Rozanne Hermelyn Di Silvestro, Arc and Line Communication and Design; catalogue production by Karen Gutfreund, catalogue authored and curated by Marianne McGrath, and for sale on the Whitney Modern Gallery website.

It has been quite a month and then some! I hope that everyone is healthy and safe during this time of uncertainty with the pandemic.

31 Women opened on March 1st and was well received by the community. The reception at Whitney Modern, Los Gatos on March 8th was a huge success and we had festive attendance all day long. It was a wonderful “last hurrah” before we had to retreat into social distancing. The planned virtual exhibit was a fortunate coincidence for 31 Women – it has kept the exhibit alive and brought art to people everywhere isolated at home. 

31 Women has been extended until April 30th at Whitney Modern, Los Gatos and a few works are still available. This will give people more time to see the exhibit online and keep our momentum going in showcasing the artists. Women’s History Month may have come to a close, but it is still a powerful year for women as it is also the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States – and this is an election year! PLUS now more than ever we NEED the power of art to inspire and uplift us during this difficult time.

Highlighted individually throughout the exhibition are each artist’s process and inspiration, as well as her sense of connection to women in history and art history, distilled from dozens of interviews, correspondence and conversations that began last year. Along with the physical exhibition at Whitney Modern, the artists from 31 Women were featured daily on social media, blogs, websites and in the gallery — one woman a day throughout the month of March. With extending the show, posts continued periodically in April with new features and sources of inspiration. This aspect of the show is intended to be a virtual exhibition available to those outside the area, and beyond the timeframe of the exhibit, to provide an individual focus on a particular artist, emphasizing her unique practice and contributions to the art community.

31 Women affirms that knowing one another empowers us. Connections past and present celebrate, support and strengthen the collective creativity of all women. Sharing our stories of women that influence us honors our past, while showcasing the work of women today crystallizes our appreciation of the present. Through such shared perspectives, we can inspire future generations of women. 

I want to again express my deep appreciation to the artists for their participation and enthusiastic support. My gratitude goes to Karen Gutfreund for publishing the catalog, for her support on this project and her encouragement as a fellow independent curator. Thank you to Rozanne Hermelyn Di Silvestro for the catalogue and logo design. And finally, a special thank you to Suzanne Smedt, owner of Whitney Modern, Los Gatos for welcoming 31 Women to her gallery and for being a champion of artists, curators and our art community.

I will be looking forward to celebrating Women’s History Month 2021 by curating a new exhibit dedicated to women artists. Until then I have several projects in the works. Check back soon for new artist interviews and projects, plus details about my next exhibit: To Hear and Be Heard, which opens October 16th, 2020!

31 Women – March 31st: Kelsey Irvin

31 Women – March 31st: Kelsey Irvin

Kelsey Irvin
Storyline Silk I-V”, 2020                    
Vintage ephemera, gold leaf, oil, acrylic and resin on panel 

Appearing like paintings at first view, Kelsey Irvin’s contemporary collages are a treasure trove of materials upon further investigation. In her process she uses everything and anything: vintage ephemera, fabric from the 1800s, McCall’s dress patterns, Hollywood movie magazines from the 50s, New York Times fashion ads from the 20s, matchbox covers, oil, acrylic, graphite, and sometimes resin. The ensuing works conjure memory and nostalgia. There is crossover between past, present, and future, with unifying themes of independence, adventure, the strength of women, and the innocent imagination of childhood.
Irvin is inspired and challenged by the idea of creating something unique that draws people in, brings people back in time, or propels them forward. She finds these qualities in many artists past and present. A woman artist that exemplifies this for Irvin is Helen Frankenthaler, admired for her uninhibited boldness. She thinks of Frankenthaler’s masterpiece “Mountains and Sea” because of what it represents, both to Irvin and for female artists, she says: “Frankenthaler was inspired, set a new path, stood out among men, and the work is breathtaking.”
Likewise, Kelsey Irvin finds role models in everyday life. “People that are unwavering in their particular passion, highly capable by choice, ‘doers’ because they can’t imagine letting life go by without trying. People who are kind, thoughtful and selfless, but also driven with self-discipline. Women who aren’t afraid to pursue their dream career and motherhood at the same time.” Irvin explains that these aren’t always famous individuals, these are people like her mother and grandmother, and people she meets along the way through life.      

An Interview with Kelsey Irvin

Kelsey Irvin

MKM: Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up? Were you always creative?

KI: I grew up in Western New York outside of Buffalo.  I was constantly drawing as a child. I submitted cartoons magazines as a child thinking I could be a freelance illustrator in elementary school and middle school – I received very nice rejection letters. Beyond that, I never really thought about art as a career, I just knew I would always love and create art. 

MKM: Why did you pursue art?

KI: In college I fell in love with painting to a level I had not expected. I was a bit over-extended those years and had committed to the equivalent of 3 majors, held 2 jobs (one as a TA for 2 professors, and one as a rock climbing guide for the University’s Outdoor program), all while playing college Lacrosse.  Long story short, by my senior year I was so over-extended that I had to cut something out in order to make sure I didn’t lose time in the studio – the place I wanted to be the most. I thought long and hard. Growing up, I’d always loved the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I believe it was because I actually only heard the first part… “Jack of all trades…” which was something that appealed to me. I loved learning about and trying many different things. My senior year in college, after I had so thoroughly explored the idea of “Jack of All Trades”, something hit me like a load of bricks – it literally felt like it knocked me over…… “Master of None.” I finally heard that part. “Master of None.” I really heard it. It haunted me. You can do everything and become pretty good at a lot of exciting things, but you’ll never really explore one thing to the full capacity, that one thing you truly love, if you’re too busy pursuing other interests. Everything changed for me in that moment. I knew that I wanted to pursue and explore painting more than anything else. I didn’t think it could soon become my full-time job, all I knew was that I wanted to paint and be in the studio as much as I possibly could. I loved it that much. So, I started sacrificing other things for the first time in my life; and it was worth it.

MKM: Where did you study?

KI: St. Lawrence University in Upstate New York. A wonderful school that offered me great experiences and opportunities. 

MKM: Did you have any memorable teachers at St. Lawrence University?

KI: Any teacher that encourages your natural abilities is a memorable teacher. In college I had several wonderful professors. Two that stood out most were Tom Greene and Melissa Schulenberg. Tom is an Environmental Psychologist that I worked for and Melissa was my printmaking instructor and an artist herself. They were both so encouraging to me in finding my way, pushing me to pursue my unique interests and helping make a path out of those interests during my college career. 

MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? rituals, patterns?

KI: My routines and work patterns have changed a lot over the years. Before kids I could easily work thirteen-hour days and paint until my eyes went blurry. I didn’t have a lot of structure, it was just – go to work. I loved it. Over time more and more structure has slipped into my work routine. A year ago we had our 3rd child. Shortly after she was born I accepted representation into my 7th gallery and wasn’t really sure how I was going to pull it all off. I started setting a specific goal for each week of what I needed to get done in the studio. I try to set realistic goals – but also goals that push me a bit. If I’m working on an exhibition this is how I ensure I have enough time to complete what I need to. 

MKM: Do you focus on a specific medium or combination of mediums? Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

KI: I use everything and anything. I consider myself a contemporary collage artist because collage, specifically vintage ephemera collage, has become such a huge component in what I do over that last 10 years. My work often includes vintage ephemera dating back to the early 1900s, even 1800s, fabric, leather, oil, acrylic, graphite, and sometimes resin. I use collage and assemblage that triggers memories in viewers: Vintage erector set parts, McCall’s dress patterns, Hollywood movie magazines from the 50s, New York Times fashion ads from the 20s, matchbox covers, hand-painted vintage signage; the list goes on and on. The work is meant to be a painting from afar, and a treasure hunt of materials upon further investigation. 

MKM: What themes do you pursue?

KI: Memories, nostalgia; the crossover between past, present, and future. My figures have themes of independence, freedom, adventure, strength of women, as well as the unique and innocent imagination and adventurous spirit from childhood.

MKM: What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

KI: My fabric shears. Collage artists “geek out” over really sharp scissors. I could paint with my fingers if I had to, but I can’t cut with them, or draw with them for that matter. After scissors, I would say a 4H graphite pencil.

MKM: Is there an artwork you are most proud of?

KI: Cornerstone pieces. The pieces that changed my direction because they opened up a new door in my creative world. Magnetique I & II were the first figurative pieces that I did that were entirely collage. A New Daysymbolizes a lot for me and my career. And also, a newer set of panels, Jewels of Narration represents a newer direction in the evolution of my Storyline Panels, a series which I’ve been doing for over ten years.

MKM: What has been a seminal experience?

KI: When I mentioned that in my senior year of college I was overextended, and my studio time was at risk — I ended up making the very difficult decision to leave the college Lacrosse team in my senior year in order to spend more time in the studio. You get very close to team members of a college sports team and I left something very social and exciting to do something rather solitary, but the decision itself was pivotal for me. Without knowing it, I had started down a path of making sacrifices for studio time; Choosing art over many other things. It helped lay the foundation in a career well before I actually knew I would have a career as an artist. 

MKM: What art do you identify with the most?

KI: It’s a wide range. I’m tempted to say collage or mixed media, but that really doesn’t cover it. I think that I identify most with art that is layered in meaning. Art that makes my heart race could be anything. Art that you can’t help but walk up to, get really close to it, and immerse yourself in how the artist created it. I’d like my paintings to be one thing from afar, and another up close. 

MKM: What inspires you? Other artists, women from history, your process, a theme?

KI: The idea of creating something from life, in a way that is different from what anyone has seen before, that draws people in and then brings people back, or propels them forward is inspiring.  Wayne Thiebaud’s landscapes, Andrew Wyeth’s fine detail, Andy Goldsworthy’s leaf and stone formations, Helen Frankenthaler’s uninhibited boldness… There are so many artists from the past and present that are awe inspiring. Making something new and different is more challenging for artists every year, every decade — but that’s what makes it in and of itself an inspiring task, it’s the challenge — and the reality that it’s possible. 

MKM: Do you have a sense of connection to a particular woman artist from art history? Is there a specific work from this artist that you find interesting?

KI: I would have to say Helen Frankenthaler’s Mountains and Sea because of what it represents, both for her, for female artists. She was inspired, set a new path, stood out among men, and the work is breathtaking. 

MKM: Who are your female role models from history or present day? 

KI: A role model to me is someone who is unwavering in their particular passion; highly capable by choice — a doer because they can’t imagine letting life go by without trying. Someone who is genuinely kind and thoughtful and selfless, but also driven with self-discipline. Someone who isn’t afraid to pursue their dream career and motherhood at the same time. These aren’t always famous individuals, these are people I meet along the way through life that I just want to keep talking to. These are people like my grandmother and my mother. 

MKM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

KI: Trust your first instinct. A painting instructor told me that while pointing out my initial painterly gesture in a large abstract piece. He said, “Build the entire piece around that.” He was right. In painting and in life. My first instinct is usually the best choice, and when I choose to ignore it, I usually regret it. 

MKM: What is your dream project? What can we expect from you in the next year?

KI: My dream project in the future is to complete a very large-scale collage/assemblage figurative work that includes dozens of individuals interacting through time; 30 feet or more. Either a mural or a work that can be exhibited and moved — several large works that come together. My plan for next year is to keep evolving my work by way of materials and technique and eventually take the panels into sculptural form. 

Inspiration and tools in Kelsey’s studio

Kelsey Irvin is represented by: Craighead Green Gallery, Dallas, TX; Exhibit by Aberson, Tulsa, OK; GF Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM; Gardner Colby Gallery, Naples, FL; Jules Place Gallery, Boston, MA; Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA; Studio E Gallery, Palm Beach, FL; and Whitney Modern, Los Gatos, CA

31 Women – March 29th: Kim Frohsin

31 Women – March 29th: Kim Frohsin

Kim Frohsin
A Voile de Decembre, 2018             
Gouache, dry pigment, tempera, ink, pencils on paper
Courtesy of Andra Norris Gallery

Kim Frohsin

Kim Frohsin

An esteemed and prolific artist, Kim Frohsin works in painting, drawing, printmaking, and mixed media. Her subjects include the female figure, landscapes and cityscapes, as well as objects, themes and series that attract her attention, and which are most often autobiographical in nature.

Frohsin began exhibiting in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990s, and in 1993 was included with Nathan Olivera, Manuel Neri and Stephen De Staebler in the exhibit Four Figures from the Bay, establishing her among notable Bay Area Figurative artists. With Wayne Thiebaud as the juror, Frohsin won the California Society of Printmakers’ Award in 1996, and the following year exhibited at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in Bay Area Art: The Morgan Flagg Collection.

After earning BA degrees in Humanities and French, Frohsin received her BFA from The Academy of Art College in San Francisco. For more than thirty years she has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States. Her work can be found in both private and public collections including: The Coca-Cola Corporation, Heritage Communications, Atlanta, GA; The Gap Inc., San Francisco, CA; The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; and The San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA.

Kim Frohsin is represented by Andra Norris Gallery, Burlingame; b. sakata garo, Sacramento; Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco and Thomas Reynolds Gallery, San Francisco.