MM: You have been so creative and artistic as
long as I have known you. It is
definitely in your blood. Did you always
know it was going to be your career?
known each other for about thirty years, wow. It has been a while! You’re right,
it is in my blood, literally. My mom was an interior decorator and my dad
designed lamps so they were into art and there was always something creative
going on at home. We also had this fabulous batik artist next door when I was
growing up. I don’t know that I thought of it as a career as such early on but
it has always been something I had to do. Whether it’s in visual media or in
words I am driven to express myself. I’ve also always had a curious mind so
making art was the perfect way for me to continue learning throughout my
MM: You work in multiple mediums. What do you like about each? And are there any other mediums you are
interested in exploring?
believe in the element of play. Art can be serious when it comes to technique
but I think all artists need to take time to find out what the materials can do
when you just fool around with them. I keep asking myself, “What if?”
off learning fiber art at James Madison University with Barbara Lewis. I also
had a terrific painting teacher in Frank Hobbs. Ultimately though, I’ve also
been my own teacher. I mentioned I had a curious mind, right? So along with my
education I’ve always researched on my own and tried different techniques and
materials. I loved
working in the medium of textiles because it was so experimental at the time. New materials and tools were constantly coming
on the market. Also, when I was beginning to work in the medium it was still
very new to the contemporary dialogue. The P&D Movement gave it great credibility and fiber artists were pushing the envelope on for textiles being
considered a real art form rather than, what was then a derogatory term, a
would look at artists like Pacita Abad and Faith Ringold and see so many
I got into
painting much later. Basically, I wanted to improve my compositional and
drawing skills so I could take the textile paintings I was making to another
level. I was so lucky because I found the perfect teacher in Hakim Tourdiev in
The Netherlands. He was a friend and a mentor along with being and excellent
instructor. He would work with me for a few weeks on a painting and then I
would work for several months doing more paintings and pushing my abilities as
far as I could go. When the opportunity arose for us to come to NYC, I was
thrilled to be able to continue my studies. I was able to take figure drawing
with Costa Vavagiakis and Michael Grimaldi at the Art Student’s League and with
the skills they instilled in me I applied to the New York Academy of Art. I
studied painting there under some amazing teachers like Vincent Desiderio and
Dik Liu. Roberto Osti’s, Artistic Anatomy class was phenomenal. I got not only
a strong foundation in figurative studies, but also a deeper understanding of
what art is and what I want to do with it. I had abandoned textile art for my
new love of painting, but when I needed to rely on my strengths, the language
that I had developed in textiles served to inform my painting. Acrylic and oil
paint give the ability to describe form and space on a flat surface and it is
that which intrigues me. At the same time, getting back to my roots has been
very satisfying. It is the interplay of these two worlds that intrigues and
challenges me today. If I could explore other mediums, I think it would be
mediums that relate to sculpture, which doesn’t exclude the ones that I am
working with now. Ultimately, the materials I work with are chosen to express
an idea and not the other way around. I see something in my minds eye and I
ask, “How can I make that happen?”
MM: I was lucky enough to be at your very first
exhibit at JMU and was so proud! Tell us
something about favorite moments at some of your exhibitions over the years?
great that you remember that! Thanks for you’re your kind words. Favorite
moments, hmm… Well, I had this amazing moment at an exhibit I had at the Salle
Basse in France. A woman was discussing my large textile paintings with me and at
a certain moment in the conversation she began to cry. It had to do with the
way the colors affected her and the imagery as well. That was really powerful
to me because I realized the immense responsibility we have as artists, that we
are touching peoples lives, communicating something to them that we just can’t
say in words.
one I will share with you is when I showed my series, Women in Transformation at The Glenview Mansion. Just accomplishing
that with the time and effort I put into it, to see it completed in the gallery
was a great thing. My mom had died that year and it had slowed me down quite a
bit. When I realized I was behind for the deadline, I spent days and nights,
catching only a few hours of sleep for several months, embroidering these
really intricate pieces. I realized then that there is a fine line between
creation and destruction because I was forced to slow myself down in order to
do a good job even though I was rushing to get it all done. It taught me a lot
about what we can achieve when we really believe in something.
MM: How do you sift through all the things that
inspire you and focus to start something?
terrific question. I am inspired by many things every day. Here’s what I do: I
write down everything, so it doesn’t get lost in the storm. I also document a
lot of visual information, through sketches and photos. Lately, I’ve been
working on a series of paintings of my friend Monstah Black. I started it at
the Academy and am on my last piece with the imagery I’ve developed. Working on
series is perfect for me because I have this seed of an idea and I can expand
upon it till I’ve said everything I want to say. I’m a gatherer, so I hunt down
all the information I can on a subject and that leads to associations that lead
to new ideas. It’s an evolving process. When I have enough to start with
conceptually, I begin with a sketch. When that is ready, I decide how I’m going
to handle it, though the whole time I’m sketching I’m already playing with
several ideas in my head. I try stuff out and try to keep it open for as long
as possible so I don’t tie myself down to something that’s finished before I’ve
been able to develop the idea fully, then I just keep at it till everything
feels as complete as I can make it without overworking it.
MM: How do you deal with it when what you are
trying to do isn’t coming out the way you want it to?
a lot of head banging and I have the bumps to prove it. No, just kidding. As I
mentioned, I try to keep it open. I fully embrace the motto, “There is no such
thing as a mistake. There are only possibilities.” Sometimes I need to walk
away or turn it away for a few hours. Mostly though, if something isn’t
working, I’ll work on a different part of the painting and that will help the
part that I was working so hard to develop. Letting go can be hard but the
moment I see I’m holding on too tight I do just that because experience has
taught me that trying to get it “right” is not the answer. Also, I’m willing to
fail, because failure leads to learning. At every moment I have to be able to
say, “I’m just going to try this.” Making something too precious kills any
chance I have to discovering new things.
MM: You have lived in a lot of interesting
places. How have they each inspired your
A sense of
place is very important to me. Home is where the heart is, as they say and my
heart is in my community. Wherever I’ve lived, France, The Netherlands, New
York City, I’ve always looked to develop that. In France, I was in living in the
countryside so that played a role in the imagery I developed. In the
Netherlands I was surrounded by the painting of the great Flemish masters, so
that had a big influence on the subjects I was exploring. NYC has given me a connection
to the urban aesthetic, though now that I’m in the Bronx, I’m surrounded by
beautiful parks and not just high-rise apartments. The feeling of the space and
the things that I witness everyday become part of my painting, directly or
MM: You are teaching others now. What are the best moments for you? The most frustrating or challenging?
Actually, I’m not teaching right now, although I did have the wonderful
opportunity last year to be the Teaching Assistant to Patrick Connors at the
New York Academy of Art, a teacher whose skill as an artist and knowledge in
education I greatly admire. The class was Portrait Painting. Being in charge of
his uninstructed sessions reminded me how much I love to teach. That moment the
light turns on and someone has grasped a concept is so great. Then, you get to
see where they take what you’ve taught them and that is even more special
because everyone has their own way of expressing the same idea. I don’t feel
frustration unless someone just doesn’t put any effort in at all and that’s
rare because who doesn’t want to be they best that they can be? I think what is
challenging is figuring out how someone learns, because we don’t all learn the
same way. I may say something to you that makes total sense but someone else
might struggle to understand it. That’s a positive thing for me because it
means we aren’t all the same. We all see the world in our own unique way and I
love trying to figure out how someone else thinks.
in your own studies – what have been the best moments? The most challenging?
start with the most challenging. That would be going to the New York Academy of
Art. Working to find my own voice amongst such talented colleagues while being
sleep deprived and trying to learn as much as possible in a short time was
intense, to say the least. It was also the best moment because it forced me to
take a stand on what I believe in. You can study forever and develop your
technique but until you try to use those skills to say something that matters
to you, you will just be incredibly skilled. Skill is nothing to scoff at. I am
constantly trying to improve my skills, but it helps that I have a vision and
goal that I am working towards. Being an artist means that I am constantly learning
and that is something I love about it. It is infinite.
MM: If you
could give one word of advice to others as to how to tap into their own
artistic creativity what would it be?
MM: Who are some of your own favorite artists
(historical and contemporary)?
Top of the
list would be Andrew Wyeth. His Helga paintings brought me to tears and made me
want to paint. Rembrandt, for sure. I especially love his later paintings, you
have a sense that he is so familiar with his material that he can do whatever
he wants, so visceral. Tim Okamura’s and Jonas Burgert’s paintings really turn
me on. John Singer Sargent’s painting is pretty sexy too.
MM: Do you ever look back at something and say
WHAT was I thinking?
don’t usually do that because I know at each moment I was trying to figure
something out. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made some awful things. Some of
those I keep just to remember what I was trying to learn. I try not to be too
critical because doing that creates a block in the process.
MM: What’s a typical workday like for you?
KP: I have
the freshest ideas when just I wake up. I’m lucky enough that my studio is in
my home, so as soon as I get up, I’m in there, looking at what I did the night
before. I always try and leave something for the next day that I need to
develop or “fix,” that way I can jump right into it. I grab breakfast and make
a plan of what I want to get done that day. I work for a few hours painting or
preparing surfaces to paint and take a break for lunch then I’m at it again. It
sounds a bit mundane, but making art is a job. I don’t just work when the muse
inspires me. I have to put the time in or it doesn’t get done. I take breaks to
do admin or research and that gets me thinking about other things so I have
fresh eyes for my work. If I’m particularly into something, I only stop when I
absolutely need to sleep, or the cat insists that I have worked hard enough and
it is time for a long scratch.
MM: What is the accomplishment of which you are
KP: I think
that would be the current body of work I am finishing. It has taken me so many
places and I have learned so much from it. A selection of them is in
FreshPaintMagazine’s London Issue this month!
MM: What’s next for you?
things are going on at this moment. While I’m finishing up my latest painting,
I am also beginning a career as an art writer. I have written for the BrooklynRail and QuantumArtReview so far. I’m also planning an exciting new series of
paintings that I’ll be starting in the New Year. I’ll keep you posted!