I was first introduced to Mya Kerner at an Inscape art installation and, upon further research, was instantly drawn to the soft, poetic nature of her landscape paintings. This interview was an exciting excuse to visit her studio and learn more about her creative process.
Q: Who are you?
A: I’m a full time studio artist in Seattle. I primarily depict landscapes in oil paint and graphite, and I also occasionally work in sculpture and installation. I studied at the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore, majoring in Interdisciplinary Sculpture. For a few years I worked in cast iron around the US and in Poland. I moved out here at the end of 2014, and because I didn’t have the facilities to make my sculptures, I transitioned into a painting practice. I currently have a show at Linda Hodges Gallery in Pioneer Square until March 30th.
" I also pull a lot from literature, mostly sci-fi and fantasy novels as well as poetry. I am enthralled by world-building and stories of a people’s being within the land."
Q: What inspires you?
A: The natural landscape moves me and that is where most of my inspiration comes from. I also pull a lot from literature, mostly sci-fi and fantasy novels as well as poetry. I am enthralled by world-building and stories of a people’s being within the land. Some recent reads include works by Robinson Jeffers, Mary Oliver, Paul Kingsnorth, Kim Stanley Robinson, N. K. Jemisin, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and so many more. I am currently reading “Spiritual Ecology, the Cry of the Earth,” which is a collection of essays edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. Finally, I am inspired by a wide range of artists from Caspar David Friedrich to Ana Mendieta.
Q: What is Seattle's art scene like?
A: I've been lucky to have a unique perspective on it. When we moved here, my partner, Zak Helenske, had been offered a residency at Pottery Northwest, so we were instantly plugged into that family. In addition, we had moved into the converted garage of a Seattle artist and, through her, we connected with an established Seattle artist community.
Based on what I've heard from other young artists in Seattle, it's not always that easy. It can be kind of insular and unapproachable. That being said, if you are someone who can start up a conversation with a stranger, you have a good chance of making friends fairly quickly.
Q: Do you see yourself as a primarily Pacific Northwest artist? Is there a defining style?
A: I don’t know, I don’t think so. I grew up in Philadelphia, my education was there and in Baltimore, and I don’t want to shed those roots. That background still rings strongly in my identity.
I haven’t been here for very long, just four and a half years, so I’m definitely not an authority on the subject. What I have seen is that there are many artists in Seattle who, like me, aren't from here originally, and that could be changing or diluting how "Pacific Northwest Art" has been traditionally perceived. And, I don’t think that is a bad thing — I think it expands the dialog.
Q: What is the process like with each painting?
A: I sketch and take photos onsite, and I return to the studio to draw based on those sketches and photos. Then, I paint small studies, just referencing the drawings. My large paintings are based on these studies. In this process, the imagery becomes more and more removed from the original place, and the work becomes about the memory of the place.
Q: What are the wire sculptures about?
A: I started these because I wanted to get back into 3-dimensional work without straying too far from my research. So, originally, I took the contours out of the landscape paintings. I traced the line drawings in my paintings with wire and then inserted the wires into panel to secure them. Explore an interconnected fragility, these have since evolved into installations where I’m drawing in three-dimensions. It’s good for me to get out of a two-dimensional mindset, and it’s great to have a more physical practice from time to time.
Photographer: Dorian Maris