Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ken Gold: — Artist Interview, Flow and Control Show

 Cactusmen
encaustic, wire, paper, nails, transistors, wood, clay


Photos by David Ditzler


Lynette (LH): Can you share with my readers a little about yourself?

Ken: I was raised in Los Angeles and lived in Southern California until I was 20.  I wasn't exposed to much art in my formative years, as my parents were not art aficionados and L.A. didn't really have any great art venues in the 60's and early 70's. I was active in hiking and nature, leading to an interest in animal behavior and science, which I pursued in college. I have degrees in Zoology, Ecology and a Ph.D. in Psychology, and spent 25 years working in zoos as a scientist, zoologist, curator, behaviorist and animal welfare specialist.

Since leaving Southern California I have travelled all over North, Central and South America, Western Europe and South East Asia.  I have lived for extended periods in San Francisco, Atlanta, the Netherlands, Berlin, Singapore and Oxford, England.  I currently reside in Chicago with my wife of 20 years, 2 cats and a bat.

Masks and Mermaids


LH: Please describe a bit about your work in general — what it is about, your process, etc.

Ken: I am a self-taught artist, having learned through experimentation. My work continues to evolve as I explore additional media and develop new techniques. I have worked in photography, acrylic painting, digital art, encaustic painting, collage and sculpture.  I first began to exhibit my photographs and digital art in 2001, and since then have had solo shows, participated in multiple national juried shows, and have been an invited artist to several curated gallery shows in the Chicago area.

I began working with encaustics in late 2005 after seeing a demonstration at an art fair in Evanston, IL.  I was searching for a way to make my photographs into one-of-a-kind artworks, and began to experiment with encaustic and teach myself the properties and possibilities of mixing this medium with photography. I love the encaustic medium for its texture, ability to layer and embed objects, and the vibrancy of the colors. For the past 2 years I have focused on making sculptures from encaustic wax and found objects as a means to push the boundaries of my creative ideas, medium and process. My recent sculptural works (from 2 series: TOTEMS and CHIMERA) use the techniques of encaustic painting in a unique way.   I create sculptures by building an armature, using up to 30 coats of encaustic paint, fusing each layer and using various melting and carving tools to create texture.

Most of the pieces are figurative: robots, monsters or fantastical chimerical creations part human and part animal or plant.  They are colorful and emotive and create a sense of wonder and movement through the use of shape, color and texture.

Through my art I am encouraging the viewer to feel something about the object they are viewing, whether it be recognition, familiarity, curiosity, empathy, happiness or horror.  I want to challenge the viewer, to open their eyes to the nature of the world and to think about their personal everyday relationships with people, animals and culture.

LH: How many of the Encaustic Conferences at Montserrat have you attended?

Ken: This will be the second time I have attended.  Last year's conference was very beneficial, since I was able to see a wide variety of encaustic styles in the gallery shows, learn about different techniques in the workshops and lectures, explore tools, and have one-on-one discussions with the many artists and vendors. Since photographs rarely capture the textural nuances of encaustic work, being able to see work up close, and study them in person, is very exciting for me. I am grateful to be selected to exhibit in this year's juried show, display my work and share my techniques with other encaustic artists.

LH: Did you create this work specifically for this juried show? Please explain.

Ken: Neither piece was created specifically for this show.  Sharkman was created in 2009.  I had already created robot sculptures and done a series of 2 dimensional collages with flying and underwater creatures. I decided I wanted to create a sculpture that would be suspended in the air as opposed to resting on a pedestal, and all of these ideas came together for this piece.  I found the old Russian projector tube and metal plate while fabricating the body, and liked how they added retro/futuristic elements to the piece.  Incorporating metal and glass into Sharkman was a challenge, as there is no easy way to bond these materials to wax.  I also used porcupine quills that I had been keeping for 10 years from a previous zoo job to make the teeth.  The designs carved into the body were inspired by Egyptian and Native American art.

Cactus Men was completed in March of this year, just prior to the deadline for Flow and Control, although I had been working on the idea for many months.  The piece is inspired by photographs I had taken of Saguaro cacti in the deserts around Phoenix. Originally I intended to use real cactus spines, but none were available (I didn't want to kill a live cactus for the spines).  One day while in a hardware store I passed the masonry nails, liked their look, and bought a package to see if they would work. This piece went through several iterations and eventually the second budding man was added, which provided balance to the final piece.


photo by Ken Gold
LH: What is your workspace like?
Ken: I work in a studio building with painters, furniture makers, photographers, sculptors and woodworkers. The building is an old machine-parts factory in the Garfield Park area of Chicago.   My space used to be the end of a hallway. It is odd shaped - 9 feet wide by 30 feet long - with lots of wall space to hang my work, and a Northern window at the end to vent fumes.  Our building has an annual open studio event in October, where I first discovered it 4 years ago, and moved in shortly thereafter.  I have several tables, including one with a metal/enamel top on which I do my hot work.  I use a torch, heat gun and sealing iron for fusing, and have sculpting and dental tools for scraping and incising my work.

LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art? (if so, please give us some details).
Ken: Yes, I have one of the more interesting day jobs.  For the last 8 years I have worked for the American Humane Association as an Animal Safety Representative on Film and TV productions.  We are the group that issues the "No Animals Were Harmed" certificate at the end of the movie (if indeed no animals were harmed).  I travel all over the country, and occasionally internationally, to film and television productions to monitor the use of animals and ensure their safety and humane treatment.  I have worked with all types of animals from cockroaches to elephants, involving everything from student films to low budget horror movies to huge budget blockbusters.  Less than 40 people in the country do my job, most working out of California.  Unfortunately, few films are made in Chicago, so I spend on the average 5-7 months a year on the road.  The work on some productions is only a few days, others up to 6 weeks.  As you can imagine, this is difficult for doing encaustic art, and only occasionally will I take my wax and a smaller version of my tools on the road with me.  On the positive side, I take lots of photographs and try and sketch out future projects while travelling.  I also get to visit many museums and art galleries, which are a constant source of inspiration.  Once I return home, I try and get to my studio as much as possible before my next assignment.

LH: Do you have a website/blog etc. you'd like to share?
Ken: Yes,  my website is KenGoldArt.com.

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