Q & A with Keren Kroul – Unquiet Territories

When did you begin working with watercolor?

I began working with watercolor as a primary medium 15 years ago. I was pregnant with my first child, and I wanted to keep working consistently without the use of toxic materials and fumes. Before this I had painted with oil paints on canvas.

Keren Kroul's sketchbook

How do geometric shapes relate to your personal memories? What shape and color does a positive memory tend to form in your mind? What shape and color do you use to depict negative memories?

In this body of work, I am using the geometric shape less for its meaning and more as a tool. To me it works as a unit of imagery, like a line or a brushstroke. It is a unit of visual language and also a unit of time, a building block building a larger image from tiny shapes. The color, however, is more specific and meaningful. I love color. I find that color is strongly connected to moments and impressions. For example, blues are the sea of my childhood in Israel and greens are the lush vegetation of Costa Rica, where I lived as a teen.

Keren Kroul painting

Are you willing to share with us a specific memory that is included in this exhibition?

The 12-panel piece that is purple with green and yellow depicts the following memory: The small black vertical lines that seem to be tangled and flowing downwards represent my great aunt’s braids. She was my grandmother’s twin sister. Her name was Judith, and she died of typhus at age 23 in a concentration camp in Jurin, Ukraine, in 1945. Throughout her life, my grandmother kept those braids wrapped in silk in a drawer by her bed and was eventually buried with them. To me this image represents loss, of course, but also continuity, hope, and memory as an active living companion.

Keren Kroul's studio

What is the most difficult part of the process for you?

The beginning and the end of each piece are the most difficult, in the sense that I am doubting myself. In the very beginning: how to begin, what colors to use, and what overall shape? In the end: when to end, how much is enough, and what will tip the image over the edge and ruin the thing?

Keren Kroul's studio

What is your favorite part of the process?

Every part of the process is both challenging and fun.

Keren Kroul's paints

Who are some of your major artistic influences?

I am inspired by a range of artists and art practices: from Rothko and Frankenthaler (for the monumentality of their work and their belief in the emotional universality of color); to Guston and Amy Sillman (painters working at the cross of abstraction and figuration); to traditional world crafts like textiles and tiles (for their use of specific geometry and intense saturated color.)

Books in Keren Kroul's studio

What advice would you give to emerging artists?

a) Have a source of income that is not your studio work. b) Show up to your studio practice as often as you can.

Quote on Keren Kroul's artboard

What is next for you?

Artistically, I am moving on from the geometric imagery into more representational/specific imagery and looking into the possibility of moving away from the wall. What would that look like? Professionally, I am exploring more exhibition venues and teaching opportunities

Questions by Gallery Assistant Katie Smith

Unquiet Territories – Exhibition Essay by Christina Schmid

 

Watercolor by artist Keren Kroul

Unquiet Territories by Keren Kroul

Exhibition Essay by Christina Schmid

Christina Schmid thinks with art and writes as critical practice. Her essays and reviews have been published both online and in print, in anthologies, journals, artist books, exhibition catalogs, and digital platforms. She works at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Art in Minneapolis, where she gets to talk about art and theory for a living. Her teaching focuses on contemporary art, mixed with critical theories, framed by cross-cultural currents and driven, always, by deep curiosity.

UNQUIET TERRITORIES by Keren Kroul

Kroul

Unquiet Territories
Keren Kroul

November 7 – December 20, 2016

Reception: November 11, 6 – 8 p.m. – Christensen Center Art Gallery

Working with watercolor on paper, Kroul creates dense organic formations from small shapes and patterns. Inspired by memories, neural pathways and natural elements, these map-like rhythmic structures are landscapes of the mind.

 

THE WONDER PROJECT

wonderproject

THE WONDER PROJECT – Art 226: Artist Workshop with Anne Baumgartner

The Wonder Project is a multi-layered art endeavor. Part social outreach and part visual celebration, the project hopes to create curiosity, conversation and new connections between the Augsburg campus and surrounding neighbors. Students in Art 226: Artist Workshop class are walking Seward and Cedar Riverside sidewalks to meet people and gather images and thoughts around the phrase, “I wonder_____.”   The same questions are being explored in campus spaces and groups. Visiting artist Anne Baumgartner arrives on October 12 to direct art workshops and construction for the Fence installation on 21st Ave. This will be a re-purposed outdoor art collage that responds to what we’ve heard and seen.

A Wonder-Celebration event will happen on Thursday, October 20th from noon to 1:30 p.m. All are invited to attend and participate.

 

Anne Baumgartner Bio

Anne Baumgartner is a mixed media artist living and working in Los Angeles. Born in Seattle, WA, she received a BA in Art Ed from the University of Washington and an MFA from LUCAD/Art Institute of Boston in 2010. She has worked all over the the country as her family moved from Seattle to New Jersey to Minneapolis and to LA. She raised three children with her husband Dan and taught art in the public schools and at Seattle Pacific University as an adjunct professor. Throughout her teaching career, she has maintained an art practice with sales and commissions in design, painting and mixed media. Anne now lives in LA (since 2010), combining a rigorous studio practice with contract and volunteer art teaching. In the last six years, she has exhibited in independant galleries, Concordia University, Barnsdall Park/ LA Municipal Gallery, Fuller Seminary, Biola University and a rogue fence installation.

Baumgartner’s art practice investigates the dynamics of social politics at work in the urban landscape. Her work uses common shapes/ symbols and repurposed elements to activate unnoticed, spaces and grids. Layering cardboard and found supplies to make quirky and accessible collages, she creates visual interventions, even installing artwork outdoors on neighborhood fences or walls. The familiar materials invite viewers in and raise questions.

 

Q & A with Megan Vossler – Terra Firma

What lessons did you take from Dante’s Inferno, and how do those themes play throughout your artwork in this show?

I read Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Inferno (Graywolf Press: 2013), and I was struck by how she brought the narrative into the present day. Her translation is full of references to current events and popular culture. This really brought the story to life and emphasized the timelessness of the human behaviors that Dante classified as “sins” — even the specific characters in his story (especially certain politicians and the like) have their counterparts in today’s world. But what interested me even more than the characters and their transgressions were the landscapes that Dante invented for each of the nine circles of Hell. Each circle has its own distinct terrain, climate, and weather that is perfectly tailored to the punishments that occur there. For example, the second circle is characterized by a ferocious wind that tosses about the bodies of those who are punished for sins related to “Lust”: the way that their bodies were out of control in real life is re-created eternally in the afterlife.

So each circle is a different microcosm and a different landscape. In the narrative, the circles are loosely connected by a network of rivers, swamps and waterfalls. In the large drawing, titled Geothermia, I tried to stay faithful to these different landscapes, while avoiding directly illustrating very many literal scenes from the text. I think, in the end, that piece becomes less about divine punishment and more about the earth itself — the earth is buckling under the weight of human transgression. It’s almost as if the earth is being punished.

Water is a strong theme within your show; could you tell us more about what it means to you and its influence in this work?

Water functions as a connective element between the circles of Hell in Inferno, but it is also treacherous: at the fifth circle, for example, Dante and Virgil are ferried safely across the river Acheron, but it is filled with the souls of the sullen, who are choking on mud. Bodies of water in both the narrative and in real life have a dual nature as both conduits of passage and a source of danger, and this informs all of the work in the show.

Could you tell us more about the life jackets? What is the symbolism behind them and the paper, bronze, or moss that they are made of?

The life jacket is a small object with very large connotations and symbolism. Their inclusion in this show came initially from the conflation of water and danger in Dante’s narrative. But the forms of life vests and rescue boats take on a more immediate urgency with the refugee crisis in Syria, which has left more than 10 million people displaced. Almost half of those have fled across the Mediterranean in often deadly conditions. The lack of safe passage across the sea is only the beginning of their dangerous journey.

The cast paper and the bronze are each extreme examples of materials that cause the life vest to lose its ability to function. The arrangement of the paper life vests on the floor is meant to have a certain immediacy, as though they just washed ashore — and the translucent paper makes them almost ghostlike. The moss life vest is titled “Ruin,” evoking a sense that it has been abandoned and eventually overgrown.

What are some of your biggest challenges to overcome during the creation process?

In general, I would say my biggest challenges usually center around the question of what to include and what to leave out. In Geothermia, I had to continue to remind myself that I was not illustrating the book. There are so many vividly detailed scenes in Inferno that would be so great to draw, but I had a goal to make a piece that would stand on its own, so I had to scale back on the direct references. I also found the composition pretty challenging, to figure out a way to link the different scenes together without resorting to a simple cone shape with concentric circles in it. Then, there are always technical challenges — in this case, this is the first time that I’ve made works in bronze and cast paper, so there was a steep learning curve there.

What words of wisdom would you pass along to aspiring artists?

Just to start. Beginning is the hardest part. If you have an idea that nags at you, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, you should try it. I talk a lot about the importance of failure with students, and it’s just a fact that not everything you attempt will succeed — and that can feel very intimidating at first. And failure is incredibly uncomfortable at times. It sucks. But if you get good at starting things, you’ll always have another project to jump into. It’s easy to finish something that’s going well — it’s a lot harder to start something new that is a risk. So I think cultivating the ability to start is almost more important than cultivating the ability to finish.

 

Questions by Gallery Assistant Katie Smith

 

Megan Vossler – Artist Statement & Bio

 

vosslerlifejacket

Artist statement

Dante’s epic poem Inferno is an allegorical account of the weight of human transgression, and its complex metaphorical richness has enduring resonance. Nine “circles” of hell are described, each corresponding with sins of escalating consequence. In Dante’s story, the circles occupy distinct physical terrain, and the landscape itself is presented as vividly as the human and mythical characters are. Physical forces—the effects of rain, wind, and sleet, the perilous nature of mud and ice, and the pull of gravity—all become part of the narrative. Water, especially, functions as both a connective element and a source of mortal danger, exemplified by the treacherous swamps, marshes and depths of the river Styx. My work in Terra Firma explores these metaphors and dissonances through a contemporary lens.

 

Bio
Megan Vossler received her BA from Brown University and her MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited nationwide, including shows at the Minneapolis Institue of Art and the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Megan has been a recipient of several prestigious awards, including a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists, a McKnight Artists Fellowship for Visual Artists, a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study grant, and two Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants. She currently serves on the curatorial panel at Soo Visual Arts Center, and teaches drawing at Macalester College.

TERRA FIRMA by Megan Vossler

Vossler Postcard Image

TErra Firma
Megan Vossler

August 29 – October 27, 2016
Reception: September 16, 6-8 p.m.

In this exhibition of new drawings and sculpture, Vossler reflects on the narrative of Dante’s Inferno, specifically exploring how the metaphor of water functions as both a connective element and a source of danger.

Gage Family Art Gallery

 

Artist statement: Dante’s epic poem Inferno is an allegorical account of the weight of human transgression, and its complex metaphorical richness has enduring resonance. Nine “circles” of hell are described, each corresponding with sins of escalating consequence. In Dante’s story, the circles occupy distinct physical terrain, and the landscape itself is presented as vividly as the human and mythical characters are. Physical forces—the effects of rain, wind, and sleet, the perilous nature of mud and ice, and the pull of gravity—all become part of the narrative. Water, especially, functions as both a connective element and a source of mortal danger, exemplified by the treacherous swamps, marshes and depths of the river Styx. My work in Terra Firma explores these metaphors and dissonances through a contemporary lens.

Bio: Megan Vossler received her BA from Brown University and her MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited nationwide, including shows at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Megan has been a recipient of several prestigious awards, including a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists, a McKnight Artists Fellowship for Visual Artists, a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study grant, and two Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants. She currently serves on the curatorial panel at Soo Visual Arts Center, and teaches drawing at Macalester College.