FEATURED ARTIST OF THE MONTH
I met Jennifer Kuhns at a SAMA conference through a mutual friend. I had known her work long before I met her. I love her imagery and use of color! Her work is very precise, which you will notice. I also love the hint of Art Nouveau in her artwork.
It's been wonderful getting to know Jennifer over the past several years. And I'm excited that you will get to know more about her too.
LMA: How did you get started in mosaics?
Jennifer: I had been exploring mediums throughout my 20s, even showing and selling at festivals and shops. I went through phases where I worked in oil and chalk pastel, acrylics, ceramics, linocut, collage and wire jewelry. But in 2000, I was living in a rental owned by friends, and there was an ugly repair job around the bathroom toilet. My landlords gave me a box of broken tiles and asked if I wanted to cover it with mosaic. I used a hammer to bust the tiles and attached them to the wood base with tile mastic, because there really weren’t online resources for good mosaic information like we have now. I loved the whole process: breaking things and gluing them back into something interesting. It took me a long time to learn correct methods and to hone my skills, but it was the first medium that hooked me for good.
LMA: What about mosaics resonates with you?
Jennifer: The process of piecing cut and broken pieces into something whole is a satisfying experience, but I think the strongest draw for me is the way mosaic can be permanently integrated into spaces, adding artistic touches to homes, businesses and public spaces. It’s art that can be walked on, touched, washed, rained on, etc. My favorite part of my work is adding something surprising to an otherwise utilitarian environment, like stair risers or floor/sidewalk inlays, and the ability to create durable murals that sparkle and shine. Additionally, indirect methods allow me to fabricate the artwork in my studio, then to install it within a short time at the job site.
LMA: Do you have a favorite subject matter? What is it?
Jennifer: I tend to work in two different styles: stylized designs and photorealistic. When I’m making photorealistic mosaic, I love to make portraits. It’s extremely challenging, but so rewarding when it comes together and the face emerges. But I have the most fun making stylized mosaic with folk-art influences, incorporating a lot of opus sectile and bright colors. I studied culture and mythology in college and I love tracing the origins and connections between symbology of different cultures, and the common theme of symbiosis with nature resonates with me.
Gabija by Jennifer Kuhns
Tahoma by Jennifer Kuhns
LMA: Do you support any charitable causes? Which ones and why?
Jennifer: I have been working with at-risk teens for 5 years at a rural high school, and I try to do my best to be an advocate and ally for people of color and the LGBTQIA community through projects like the Diversity Mural. Currently, Cherie Bosela and I are coordinating a global mosaic project where mosaic artists around the world have been making mosaic hearts and sending them to Luna Mosaic Arts. They will be installed on a large wall in Orlando, forming a rainbow of hearts that are floating away from a figure blowing kisses. The mural is a message of support for the LGBTQIA community. We are still raising funds to support the installation of this project at www.gofundme.com/diversitymural.
Shower Installation by Jennifer Kuhns
LMA: What is your least favorite thing about mosaics and why?
Jennifer: The length of time necessary to create a commission is often an obstacle because clients often don’t understand the process and benefits. I’ve had clients balk at $200 per s.f., telling me that a fellow artist does another type of wall treatment for only $8 per s.f. Actual fabrication and installation of large-scale installations can be grueling, and I need to learn ways to take better care of my body.
Shower Installation by Jennifer Kuhns
LMA: Do you listen to music while creating (what type/bands)or do you prefer the TV(what shows/genera/channel)? Silence? Pod cast? Etc.?
Jennifer: I’m a podcast addict. I listen to a wide range of podcasts while working, from politics to history to pop culture. I try to learn as much as possible while I’m working with my hands.
LMA: What is one of your favorite quotes or sayings?
Jennifer: “Be careful what you get good at. You’ll spend the rest of your life doing it.”
LMA: If you could give readers one single piece of advice, what would it be?
Jennifer: Try not to expect a specific path for your work. Just make what you enjoy making and see where it takes you. No two artist’s paths are the same.
Sauna Shower by Jennifer Kuhns
Window of Compassionby Jennifer Kuhns
LMA: Tell us about your single greatest mosaic moment:
Jennifer: That is very hard to choose. It might be the moment I went to continue working on a mosaic of the Dalai Lama that I had been struggling with for about a week when I first started learning to use photorealism, and I clearly saw his realistic eyes looking back at me. It was a powerful moment.
Dalai Lama by Jennifer Kuhns
LMA: Attach 3 of your favorite mosaics by someone else…Why do they capture your interest?
What, This Old Thing? by Donna Van Hooser
This mosaic is so skillful, but doesn’t take itself seriously. I love that it is whimsical, but done with such detail and technical acuity.
Four Seasons by Irina Charny
I love Irina’s references to mythology, and her signature style that is obviously influenced by Baltic folk art imagery. I really enjoy the mix of materials that she incorporates into her work.
La Primavera by Michael Kruzich
This is such a beautiful and uplifting mosaic, and again SO skillfully assembled. The light and shadow is perfect, and I am awed by the subtle wings that appear within the foliage behind the figure. Just amazing!
LMA: Do you have a favorite color palette?
Jennifer: I think I have a signature palette when I’m working in stylized designs that are very reminiscent of folk art found from Mexico to Baltic countries; bright colors that include red, teal, orange, pink and lime green.
LMA: Who are your top 3 favorite artists or top 3 most influential artists in your work?
Jennifer: I feel like I learn a little bit from each of the artists I follow. I really don’t feel I can pick 3. And honestly, my biggest influence is travel. I love traveling to find arts and crafts all over the world and, when possible, to meet the craftspeople. I take thousands of photos of the arts and crafts that I discover, from murals to masks to pottery to textiles, and I often sketch the basic designs to study the lines and themes.
Work in Progress by Jennifer Kuhns
by Jennifer Kuhns
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