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INTERVIEW: AUNIA KAHN, LOWBROW RENAISSANCE WOMAN
October 27, 2014
beautiful.bizarre recently got the chance to sit down and talk with artist Aunia Kahn about art, life and being part of the “Rough and Ready” exhibition showing until November 8th at Bash Contemporary Art.
In the intro I call you an artist, but you are really more of a renaissance woman. Can you tell me about some of your curating, photography, writing, publishing and other projects?
First off, thanks for the kind compliment. As a very driven creative person that gets bored easy, I find I can’t have my mind occupied with just one thing. That seems futile to my spirit. Moreover, there is this electric feed of energy inside of me that keeps feeding back into itself when I am working on many different things at once. For example: If I write a poem, it makes me think of a still life photograph and then while setting up for the shot I come up with an idea for a painting, which then turns into a collaborative exhibition with other artists and a book project. It does not work in any specific order like my example, however that is the best way to explain it. They all fuel the same growing fire. I enjoy working alone, but I also love working with other people.
As for projects, I am in love with publishing. I have a slight book and magazine obsession. I also love art, and anything being made by the hands of those with a passion, and you put those two together, which ignited my interest in curating and publishing. My first curatorial project was a very important local exhibition entitled “Darkest Dreams, A Lighted Way” which focused on mental illness and abuse survivors through art. After enjoying the experience of working with artists on a subject that was close to my heart, I ventured into an occult direction shortly after I designed and publishing my own 78-card tarot deck the “Silver Era Tarot”, with the idea of curating and publishing a deck by artists in the Lowbrow/Pop Surreal/New Contemporary Genre. This is how the “Lowbrow Tarot Project” was born into an exhibition, collectors book and Major Arcana tarot deck featuring artists like Laurie Lipton, Kris Kuksi, Jessica Joslin, Chris Mars, Jennybird Alcantara, etc. The exhibition being the first big project focusing on tarot in the Lowbrow/Pop Surreal/New Contemporary genre and showcasing some of the biggest names in the industry was one of the most supported exhibitions and projects of 2010. This humbled me, and also drove into many more curatorial exhibitions such as the “The Moon Goddess” exhibition at Modern Eden, and the “Tarot Under Oath Project” at Last Rites Gallery, and thereafter opening my own gallery, Alexi Era.
Tell me about this current show at Bash? I would love to hear about your work in the exhibition, and what excites you about the other artists participating in “Rough and Ready”?
The exhibition at Bash was such an exciting opportunity to me. This was the first time showing at the space and working with Anthony, but has been one of the most heartfelt and rewarding experiences. The other artists in the show are wonderful, and I am honored to be showing with all of them. Not only is their work outstanding, they are wonderful people!
The show theme was very close to my heart as well due to my love for the circus-sideshow feeling. I love looking at old photographs from the time that the sideshow was a much bigger attraction then it is now. Also it’s funny, people keep asking me if I have ever seen AHS, and I have not – I don’t watch TV. Although, I can say it does seem quite tempting given the thematics. The work I created for the exhibition has a classic feel with a modern twist. I love the odd and strange!
Your art is very serious, both in terms of the technical skill it involves and the dramatic imagery. Is there a lighter side to Aunia Kahn that we don’t see (what makes you laugh, do you watch reality TV, are you excited about Wrestlemania)?
What makes me laugh at the moment is my recent rescue dog – animals in general. We used to have 4 rescues, 2 of which died last Oct, 30 days apart (here I go being serious!), one of old age the other of cancer, and my mother followed shortly that Nov. Then out of nowhere this young dog showed up in need in a very dark time for me, he needs love, he needs vet care and he adopted me. The universe answered my sadness, giving me the ability to give back to a creature that needed somone. I had no choice. He paws me in the face, does the silliest stuff and gets so emotional about love that he sighs and breathes so deep like Darth Vader, his name is Indigo but we call him Little Lord Vader or Micro Dog. Laughter and joy for me comes from being around animals, they are so giving, showcase unconditional love and teach me to be a better person. A few other things that bring me joy are walking around in nature, and reading.
Your pictures have a strong narrative quality. Are there stories that go with them when you create them? If so, can you tell me one?
They seem to create themselves if that makes sense? I get a feeling inside and then I go with that feeling to create my work. Often my work is personal narratives, stories that are going on in my head about my own life or the world around me. Creativity is the best way to express joy, work out demons, and to explore the universe. With also being a writer, I feel very strongly that my art personally should be able to tell a story, if only to me.
You curated and created cards for the Lowbrow Tarot & Silver Era Tarot decks. Have you ever had your fortune read?
I have had my tarot cards read many times and I also read them for myself, however I was a little weary about it when I was first introduced. Tarot I thought was a very negative thing for a long time, all based in ignorance and not fact. Once I started to actually spend time to learn and do research, I fell in love with tarot. The history, iconography, art, and how it can personally touch whoever is open to their interpretations. It’s always been a very pleasant and wonderful experience for me. I use tarot cards at least once a week, my favorite right now is Deviant Moon Tarot or Paulina Tarot.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes, very much so. Without a doubt. I have had many experiences as a child and as an adult.
How old were you when you stopped trick or treating?
I think I was in High School…
Any costumes that stick out from your childhood as being especially awesome?
I was a punk rocker and the outfit I wore was black and purple zebra striped, that was pretty sassy! I also was Casper the Ghost, with those hard plastic acrylic type masks. You know the ones you stuck your tongue through the plastic hole and sometimes would cut it on the sharp edge!
Can you tell me about a typical day for you?
Lately I have been trying to start my day with yoga and good music. I used to come right to work, but I am trying to start it on a different note. Then I take care of my rescue pack, and get some food and something to drink and hunker down in the studio for a few hours. Taking breaks with the dogs from time to time. Each day depends on what needs to be done, many days I have deadlines, other days which is few and far between is free reign. I also try and stick out of the studio after around 4pm, but that does not always work. Inspiration can come out of nowhere and I try not to ignore that.
How do you get out of an artistic funk?
The funny thing is I rarely have one. I am working on so many things at once that if I am not feeling one, I can always be feeling something else. However, I know this is not always the case with most people, so the way I have tackled feeling less than motivated, or feeling disenchanted with what I was doing is to remember that it is not about everyone else but about me. I make things to make me happy first and foremost and not to make anyone else happy. The times I feel less than happy is when I am driven to a deadline or on a project I am not inspired by, so I don’t take on anything like that. If I am not 100% interested, I don’t do it.
Any upcoming projects you would like to talk about?
Thank you for asking. First since you bring up the wonderful “Rough & Ready Sideshow” exhibition at Bash Contemporary, I am honored to share I will be working with them in other capacities in the future outside being an artist which is very exciting. More on that soon! Bash is approximately 2 years old and was founded by Anthony Luzi, who happens to be one of my favorite people. He has brought so much energy and positivity to the Lowbrow/Pop Surreal/New Contemporary Genre as a galleriest, overall supporter and contributor. Second, I am working on two books right now, the first being my art book entitled “Secret Closet: The Artwork of Aunia Kahn” and the second being a photography/writing book featuring writing, portraiture, and experimental photography and is entitled “Avalanche of White Reason”. The art book will be my first published art-based book; the photography/writing book will be the third in a series. I am also working on some other publishing projects; a handful of special group exhibitions and my brain is always coming up with something new. Give me a hot minute!