Today’s guest on the Artsville Podcast is the one and only Kenn Kotara, a contemporary mixed-media abstract artist based in Asheville, North Carolina. Kenn’s practice has been shaped by his lifelong fascination with architecture, philosophy, and literature, and he masterfully expresses himself on canvas, paper, and Mylar, as well as braille, Polaroids, and site-specific installations that evoke a powerful emotional response from those who view them.
In this episode, Kenn offers some insight into the evolution of his practice as he shifted from representational to abstract work and we discuss the impact that the ‘nurturing environment’ of Asheville has had on him as an artist. We dive into his work with braille and Kenn emphasizes the empathy he believes he has gained from it, as well as what it has taught him about being present and mindful in the moment.
Ultimately, Kenn has devoted his career to looking at the world differently and embracing a myriad of inspirations, and his remarkable braille pieces reveal the thoughtful, multidimensional side of his practice. He also has a strong focus on education and he speaks to the power of art for bridging divides in a world where so many seek to widen them. If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration and, perhaps, a different perspective on life (and art), this is the episode for you! We hope you’ll join us.
Key Points From The Kenn Kotara Episode:
- Kenn’s upbringing, his French Cajun heritage, and the Polish origins of his name, Kotara.
- The story of what brought Kenn to Asheville more than 20 years ago.
- What he loves about living and working in the ‘nurturing environment’ of Asheville.
- The evolution of his work, from representational to abstract, and the impact Asheville has had.
- Understanding the influence of architecture, graphic design, and technology on his work.
- How Kenn cultivates discipline as an artist and navigates what he calls the chaos of creation.
- A glimpse into Kenn’s work with braille and the perspective he says it gave him on perfection.
- The relationships he has built within the visually impaired community as a result.
- What working with braille taught him about truly being present in the moment.
- Insight into the process of writing in braille and the tools and methodologies that he uses.
- One of the major literary influences on Kenn’s work: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
- Reflecting on the significance of his braille work for those who aren’t visually impaired.
- The power of art to bridge gaps rather than create them, like so many politicians seek to do.
- How Kenn’s site-specific installations encourage conversation and facilitate education.
- Find out how and why Kenn came to be so articulate about his artwork.
- Why Kenn is so devoted to his work in education, even as he formally retires from teaching.
“Asheville is this confluence of so many different characters and people with interests that you can’t help but be influenced by many of them.” — Kenn Kotara [0:10:59]
“[Working with braille] made me realize that it’s all about light. We are so dependent on light, from the sun to the reflection and refraction of light and so on. It truly opened my eyes.” — Kenn Kotara [0:25:44]
“What I want to do is start a conversation to bridge the gaps between us versus them.” — Kenn Kotara [0:38:07]
“Having that educational component, working with people, whether they can see or not, whether their skin color is the same as mine, there is a great opportunity and a great void that needs to be filled [there].” — Kenn Kotara [0:49:54]
“Out in Texas, everything stretches out so far and fast that you can see a thunderstorm coming four hours in advance. Here, in Asheville, you’re confronted by more of a claustrophobic force; trees, [mountains], it’s beautiful, it’s lush. [It was] completely different. [Moving to Asheville] had a huge effect on me changing the way I began to approach my own practice. That’s when I begin to look at the world differently and almost begin to lift up my paintings towards me as opposed to wanting to stretch them out.” — Kenn Kotara [0:08:41]
“I want to continue on with a foot in education [because] I know it’s paramount to our society and to our wellbeing and to our culture. How do we continue to be creative people, but do that in creative ways, bridging gaps, bridging races, genders, and so on, being inclusive of as many people as possible? Because there are a heck of a lot of creative people out there who don’t look like me, who have a different skin color, who come from a different background, and so on.” — Kenn Kotara [0:47:10]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Kenn Kotara Episode:
- Kenn Kotara on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenn-kotara-1a74274/
- Kenn Kotara on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/kennkotara/
- Kenn Kotara on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/kenn.kotara
- Kotara Studio — https://www.kotarastudio.com/
- Walden — https://www.amazon.com/Walden-Henry-David-Thoreau/dp/1619493918
- Artsville Podcast — https://artsville.captivate.fm/
- Scott “Sourdough” Power — https://www.notarealartist.com/
- Louise Glickman — https://www.louiseglickman.com/
- Daryl Slaton — http://www.tailsofwhimsy.com/
- Crewest Studio — https://creweststudio.com/
- Sand Hill Artists Collective (SHAC) — https://sandhillartists.com/