Interview: Mya Kerner
An interview and selection of artwork by American based artist Mya Kerner.
Photography & Artwork: Mya Kerner
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became an artist?
I am originally from Philadelphia, PA. I have always considered myself to be an artist, but I will say my formal training began when I was 17, and I worked 20 hours a week, painting one-on-one with a mentor. She shaped my understanding of capturing the essence of my subject. After that, I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, which was a wonderful experience. I consciously chose a college which encouraged a multi-disciplinary curriculum, because I tend to want to do everything. After changing majors several times, I completed a degree in Interdisciplinary Sculpture with a minor in Environmental Design.
Where do you think your creativity comes from?
I believe creativity is inherent, but emerges with practice. I am fortunate to come from a family of creatives, so expression has always been encouraged. Whether it was building models, playing with clay, visiting museums, or just colouring outside, my childhood was filled with creative activities, allowing me to identify as an artist from a young age. I learned to pull inspiration from my environment, literature, and interactions, which fuel my creativity. This dedication to creative practice has continued in my adult life, as I aim for a mindful and stimulated daily life.
What is your preferred choice of medium?
Material exploration is an important part of my practice. My sculptural practice has heavily influenced the way I approach oil paint as a material; I manipulate the paint in a way more like sculpting than the brushing of paint. The tools that I use are important to this practice: an assortment of silicon spatulas, x-acto knives, mechanical pencils, and several favourite brushes. By combining paint and graphite on birch panel, which accepts both forceful and gentle application without distortion, I achieve a satisfying range of marks.
Why do you choose to focus on landscapes?
I was moved to explore landscapes while studying the Romantic Movement, and its rebellion against the Enlightenment. A romantic at heart, I cherish the unknown and mystery of nature. I reject the domination of logic and hope to live in awe of the sublime for the rest of my life. That being said, my studies in permaculture have provided me with some knowledge and rhetoric to speak about my concerns of humanity’s precarious relationship with nature and our crucial role as stewards of the earth.
What has been your favourite piece to work on?
There have definitely been a few pivotal pieces in my progression. My perception of each piece changes as time moves forward, but a favourite is one of my cast iron sculptures, Strands II. The piece bridges the gap between my painting and sculpture practices and creates cohesion, where once there was confusion. When casting, attention cannot waiver and the experience is heightened because of this focus. For Strands II, I poured molten metal into a bed of damp, carved clay; the reaction left its history upon the surface. In the completed sculpture, lines travel across a space, simultaneously marking separation and drawing connections.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on the language of my marks in relationship to geological features. I present myself with constraints and work to develop different aspects of my work, through iterations, one painting or sculpture at a time. Recently, I have embarked in two new directions, extracting minerals from the landscape to make into paints and extruding the contours of my paintings into three dimensional wire forms; I am excited to see where these explorations will take me.
Is there a particular movement or artist who have influenced your work?
I mentioned the Romantic Movement earlier; artists such as JMW Turner and Caspar David Friedrich, as well as romantic writers continue to influence my work. I am also influenced by Eastern traditions, including the masters of shan shui and the philosophies of wabi sabi.
What is your favourite location to paint?
The drama of the Pacific Northwest terrain captivates me, I feel like I can live here for the rest of my life and never lose this sense of wonder. The mountains change so much within each hour or from different locations. There is little better than sitting on a bluff or a beach with a fresh breeze and reflected sun, looking over the water to the mountains. I usually work on sketches and watercolour paintings on site, returning to these studies once I am back in the studio to paint in oils. Recently, I moved into my own studio space in a building housing a dozen artists (including my partner, Zak Helenske). I have been so inspired by the space, with its enormous windows, painted brick, and view of the mountains.
What are your future travel plans?
My mother recently purchased a home in France. I will be visiting the property this autumn and hope to see the Alps for the first time during that visit. Additionally, after a short visit to Utah this past summer, I have made a goal of further exploring the landscapes of the American west. I hope to travel to the southwest states this coming spring.