Interview: Kelly Kozma
Exhibition POINT 5: Works by Kelly Kozma is currently on view at Paradigm Gallery
"Consider each piece as a cross section from life. Like a droplet of blood, these works are sandwiched between two slides, preserving memories, experiences and ephemera, which may otherwise be forgotten.
Similarly to one’s memories, these works begin with a collection of information. In a few cases, the materials utilized were brand new to this world. Their first and last purpose was to be a part of this piece. In other cases, they were gathered over time. “CMYK” for example, took months of cutting up boxes to amass enough color test-strips, to create the work. “Confetti 2.0” is made up of leftover (you guessed it) confetti, from an installation of a previous exhibition. And then there’s “Philly, Then” which is compiled of photographs taken almost 15 years ago. Regardless of how long the materials took to collect or put to use, the outcome is a frozen period of time on which one can reflect.
The collection process is followed by deconstruction. Over time, the memories one accumulates break down in the mind. What was once clear as day becomes fuzzy and pieces go missing. “What year was that? Who was there? Was that before or after we met?” One may cling to the bigger more important chunks, or remember the slightest detail of an event. Either way, information fades and the experience changes more and more with the passing of time. I mimic this process by punching my materials into half-inch circles, which get mixed up randomly, like memories swimming in a sea of thoughts.
Lastly, these materials are sewn together, hence preserving them before being able to breakdown to an undecipherable state. I use the technique of hand stitching to physically mark the passing of time. The needle goes through the next hole and the clock ticks one more notch. The thread gets pulled tight and that second has secured itself in history. It cannot be erased or forgotten.
Aside from the conceptuality of memories, I was also driven by the aesthetics achieved through the reorganization of information. A beer box becomes a menagerie of bold, shimmering sequins in “California Style” and a coloring book transforms into a sophisticated abstract design in “F**cked”. I also considered how the piece changes, as it is viewed from different distances. From far away, colors group together and create a pixelated, Tetris-like effect. As one approaches the piece however, it breaks down into individual images . . . a barcode, the word pizza, a smiley face, etc. Again this relates to the human experience and how we group similar time periods and events together, but upon closer examination we are able to remember the most specific and intricate of details.
Although this collection of memories began as my own, they will be transferred onto each individual viewer, who, in turn, will create their own associations, all to be preserved in time."
Congratulations on your new exhibition at Paradigm Gallery! We love seeing your art evolve over the years. How would you say the new pieces are similar/different from the work in your last show?
Thanks so much! This is my fourth solo exhibition at Paradigm, and I’m incredibly happy to be working with them again. I would say that the biggest similarity between my new and past work is the process of deconstructing materials and then stitching them back together. Attention to detail and good craftsmanship have always been important to me, so you will see those elements continue to shine through in my new series as well. I would say the biggest difference is that, in the past I have shown a plethora of processes. My last show with Paradigm was actually titled Confetti, Crackle Pop, which was somewhat indicative of there being an explosion of work, colors, etc. In my show POINT 5, which just opened, I really hone in on my punched-paper pieces, and feel that in doing so, I was able to push the work further and bring a new level of sophistication to it.
Tell us a little bit about the Security Blanket. What were some things that inspired you to make the work? Describe some of the things you were thinking about when making the piece.
A couple of years ago, I began to notice that security envelopes had really upped their game. There were so many interesting patterns and colors being introduced and I became somewhat obsessed with collecting them. After hoarding them for awhile (most artists hoard materials at some time or another, right??) I settled on transforming them into a hand-stitched security blanket. When I began this project it was about aesthetics. I really dug these envelopes and wanted to give them a second life in my art. But as the project grew so did political tension, strife, defeat, anger, sadness, and hopelessness. Think early November, 2016. I wanted to create something that would make people feel good and give them emotional comfort, much like that of an actual security blanket. I actually created a limited edition 13-page zine, which tells the story of Security Blanket in its entirety, and can be purchased through Paradigm Gallery:
https://www.paradigmarts.org/collections/kelly-kozma/products/securityblanketthestory. I felt like it was too meaningful of a piece not to have its story told.
What would you say your art is about?
In my most recent exhibition, POINT 5, the work is about preserving memories, experiences and ephemera, which may otherwise be forgotten. Over time, the memories one accumulates break down in the mind. What was once clear as day becomes fuzzy and pieces go missing. One may cling to the bigger more important chunks, or remember the slightest detail of an event. Either way, information fades and the experience changes more and more with the passing of time. I mimic this process by punching my materials into half-inch circles, which get mixed up randomly, like memories swimming in a sea of thoughts. Then, I hand-stitch my materials back together, preserving them before they are able to breakdown to an undecipherable state. The way I framed them is meant to read as a slide, similar to that which would contain a blood droplet, ensuring that this memory cannot be erased or forgotten.
Your process is beautifully meditative. Can you tell us about the creative stages of your work from planning to creation?
Materials play into my work a great deal, so I usually begin my process by searching and collecting things that interest me. In this series I use everything from a beer box, to CMYK test strips, to a roll of film I took in 2003. Once I’ve amassed enough materials I begin the meticulous task of punching and hand-stitching. You definitely hit the nail on the head when you said meditative. This is an excerpt from my zine…
“…people usually say one of two things when they see my work in person. 1. ‘You’re crazy! How do you have the patience to do this? You’re CRAZY!’ They normally say it multiple times. Or 2. ‘I get it!’ These are the people that like myself find solace in repetitive tasks, meticulous work and time consuming endeavors. I’ve always understood both responses. I know I’m crazy but I also get that I need to make this work to keep me sane.”
What do you hope the viewers take away from your new series?
Although these works originally stem from my memories, I’m hoping that each viewer creates their own unique story and associations that will transfer onto each piece and be preserved in time. I also used the theme of community throughout the show, so I’m hoping people will walk away, feeling like they are part of something bigger than themselves. The show is about rebuilding and strengthening.
Please share a few tips with our readers for creating a new body of work and staying inspired and motivated in their art career.
Write down your craziest ideas because a day will come when they seem less crazy and more doable!
Healthily hoard. DON’T create an unlivable space, but DO save things that truly inspire you and are meaningful. Make a memory box and look through it every year or so. This is a surefire way to get the ideas flowing.
Be part of a community that you contribute to and are inspired by. Remember it’s a two way street! And make sure to tell your support system how appreciative you are. On that note, thanks Create! Magazine and everyone reading this!!!
You can view and purchase Kelly's entire collection here: https://www.paradigmarts.org/collections/kelly-kozma