Session 01 Artist: Kim Kei
Tell me about your journey as an artist, when did you start creating?
I have very early memories of making, and memories of seclusion. I used to do paper quilling, where you turn small strips of paper and combine them to make something larger. And I remember I had this little nook in my closet, under the clothesline, that I would burrow into, and this is where I kept my little collection of small things that I gave a lot of attention to.
In a more deliberate way, when my grandmother died, I inherited her oil painting set, and I started taking classes behind the local hobby shop in Texas, I think I was 14. Everybody in the class was over 65, and I would go in and get hugs and listen to them tell stories about their grandchildren and their health problems. It was an insight into another world.
My mom makes quilts and sews, so there was always scraps of cloth to play with, and my dad is a musician, so we would wake up to music. My sister and I took dance classes. Focusing on creative activities was encouraged in our household.
How would you describe your vision and mission as an artist today?
Oh gosh, that’s so vast, and it’s probably more fluid. It usually comes from interacting with other people’s work, there’s this knowing of the intrinsic value of dedicating one’s life to making. Not so much that I can recognize that in what I am doing, but because I can feel really grateful that other people that create work have stuck with something to get it to a point that it can communicate with that sort of depth. I heard a musician use a phrase “I can’t be without this” and that felt very true.
You are the Session 01 artist, the inaugural artist, of Slate Collective, how would you describe what the collaboration has been like for you?
I think we had a strong connection initially when we met, and I felt the exchange of how you connected with the piece that you now own, and the work in general, and that trust. And being able to witness the way you think and work, and the sequence of steps, and to see the vision come together, to say it’s been a pleasure seems like an understatement.
What would you say has been the most surprising part of this collaboration?
I feel like a witness. That you have really created it into the form that it is, and that the work that I am contributing is a facet of that. Being able to see the work transform, and I can only take it so far, and then it takes on another life of its own. As far as clothing, the work that I do, is very much about the body without depicting the body, without a form. The earlier work I was doing was actually using fabric in bodies of water, so the connection, or loop is most surprising.
Tell us what new projects or shows you are working on. What are you excited about?
I am traveling to Singapore to be a part of an artist residency, and the woman who is running the program has been facilitating collaborations for years. So, she will often pair an international artist with a local artist so they have this shared experience and exchange. Often a lot of the work is done in isolation, so it’s nice to have that conduit to making connections and a shared conversation.
I have some pieces, I like to talk as if they visit, and I have these visions of the next work, that visit before they actually happen. So, I am excited about the work to come.
What are your stretch goals – where are you pushing yourself next?
As I said with the visitors, I feel like I have to honor them, and sometimes it can be an irrational endeavor. For instance, the last piece I did was a 15’ installation, and that these visions can become so fully formed, that I feel like its neglectful if I don’t make an attempt at least to fully realize them. Sometimes it can feel reckless in the sense of resources it can take, but I just rationalizing and taking that risk, and I really value that risk. I also feel that taking time in the studio where work doesn’t need to be resolved or successful. I really believe in that longer arc of allowing for failures or creating work that doesn’t quite resonate.
As a society, we talk a lot about achievements, but I think it takes vulnerability to talk about what we need help with. Can you share something that you need help with?
One of the directions of the work that I am drawn to, but I am limited in as far as knowledge and resources is, I have this vision of my small sculptures breathing. So, working with potential of animation the sculpture, I feel the potential there, but I also feel pretty distant from making that a reality.