In the Studio with Kendra Larson
What does a day in your art practice look like?
A typical day in my life starts with my rambunctious five-year-old waking me up a bit too early. I get him ready and walk the seven blocks to his school and back. Then I’m able to get into my studio which is a converted garage behind my house near Mt Tabor in SE Portland. First, I take stock of the different works I have started and what needs attention. The next steps may be obvious or may need some time to sit and look. Last week my studio time was filled with the business of making art. I had my work photographed in the morning, then met and went to a fellow artist and friend’s exhibition and later finished developing a presentation to bring students on a European trip.
Some days, I only have 30 minutes spurts to get as much done as possible. I enter the studio, get down a layer of wet paint covering the canvas and then come back in the house to make dinner. We eat and put my son to bed and I go back and pick up where I left off. I constantly adapt my process to my life and its circumstances. Whether drawing still-life’s along with my students through zoom, or crafting a goblin shark costume for my son, this practice informs my own work. During the wildfires, I focused my practice to pastels and interpreting the same image dozens of times in a variety of color palettes and techniques. This became somewhat of a meditation practice for me. At a time when I could not get into the studio as much, I began collaging my imagery in sketchbooks and later developed into large scale paintings. And recently, I revisited an older body of sculptures to re-work for an upcoming installation. The imagery and subjects I explore are often intuitively chosen, even though they all tend to orbit around environmentalism, Romanticism, and the Pacific NW.
What inspires you?
Nature is the main source of inspiration for me. Researching plants, places, Astronomy, and Phenomenology in Oregon also fuel my work. Human interaction and natural disasters also come into my practice, but often in subtle ways.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Instead of trying to be the smartest person in the room, try to be the most honest. The work should have a soul.
And painting is a way of thinking, try not to edit yourself too early.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? Why?
Emily Carr since she was a great painter and seems to have been a unique character. We could have great adventures together in her trailer with all of her pets.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Paint like you are making love – with passion and as if it is the last time (told to me by my painting teacher when I was working on my BFA)
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
As the descendent of loggers, the wild west myth has shaped my identity. The art I create aims to explore this and phenomena that makes Landscapes special; here the veil between the spiritual and physical world is thin. My work depicts the environment, with a focus on making visible the fleeting qualities (ie. smoke, fire, clouds, snow, and sound) which add to our understanding of Place. My most recent series features forest fires, steamy hot springs, bodies of water that reflect the cosmos, and caves. The powerful destruction of fire and healing qualities of hot springs points to notions of renewal. The haunting magic of caves, like the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, gives perspective to our human experience. I explore these symbols, but I am aware that my paintings and installations may not be fully understood until well after they are made. Ultimately, my work reignites childhood wonderment, sheds light on the sublime, and calls on the viewer to protect natural spaces.