Karen Kraven: Q & A
Karen Kraven with her sculpture Pins and Needles
Montreal-based artist Karen Kraven works in photography, sculpture and installation. Her public sculpture Pins and Needles is currently on display at the Toronto Sculpture Garden until September 15, 2018.
What was your inspiration for Pins and Needles?
Pins and Needles was initially inspired by my own family and their personal and cultural history in the garment industry. Through my research, I came across a lot of documentation surrounding the worker strikes in Toronto and Montreal in the 1930s. In images of picketing and empty factories, I fixated on the unfinished clothing that was left behind when they walked out, as both a symbol of their labour and of their protest.
Detail of sculpture Pins and Needles
What was your greatest challenge in creating the piece?
It was really challenging to find a sail loft/boating upholstery fabricator to work on this project in the early spring.
When did you know you’d have a career in art?
When the AGO bought my work at the Toronto Art Fair in 2014.
What day jobs have you had?
Waitress, bartender, gardener, gallery administrator, teacher’s assistant, art handler/installer, set decorator/prop buyer for film/TV,
What was your first successful creative act?
I won second prize in a big colouring contest when I was little. (First prize was a trip to Disney World…) Getting into OCAD was a pretty big moment for me, because I really didn’t think I would.
How do you begin your day and what are your habits?
In the summer, I swim first thing in the morning in the outdoor public pool near my apartment. Then, I usually read and make some notes while drinking coffee. I do my admin stuff in the morning and I’ll head to the studio after lunch. In the winter, I swim and steam at the Y near my studio.
Which artists do you admire most?
Louise Bourgeois, Joan Jonas, Hélio Oiticica, Rosemarie Trockel.
Which artists do you like, that would surprise people?
Maybe it would surprise people that I like Andrea Zittel, but to those who really know me, probably not.
What is your greatest extravagance when creating?
I download a lot of music.
Which is more important, the process or result? Why?
This is a difficult question…the process is more important in that it determines the result, but, it depends; some meandering surprises from process is where the magic can happen, however, if the result ends up being too bland, then it doesn’t really matter how interesting the process was.
What is your favourite colour? Your least favourite colour?
I think it is always changing. Right now, I like browns and 70s’ colours. But, I think orange is very difficult.
How do you procrastinate?
Endless internet searches.
What is your favourite work of art?
There are so many works that had significant impact on me when I was younger, and have stayed with me, like Claes Oldenburg’s Hamburger, which I once hated and then grew to understand why it made me upset and now I love it. I saw a Sarah Sze exhibition in NYC in 2005 and it was like a light turned on in me, and made me feel really optimistic about making art.
Two years ago, Taryn Simon did an installation/performance at the Park Avenue Armory called An Occupation of Loss about and actually embodied mourning (and by proxy, about visas and travelling to the United States). It was really dark and moving and left me wanting more.
I could watch Hito Steyerl’s video How Not to Be Seen and Jeremy Deller’s English Magic over and over.
Who would you want to create your portrait?
What do you do if you need inspiration?
There are some great marché aux puces and junk shops in Montreal.
What do you like to do when not making art?
I love to eat.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Toronto Sculpture Garden! I’d never made anything like that before, I had to overcome a lot of new challenges in the process and fabrication.
What is your greatest fear?
I’m afraid of earwigs crawling in my ear! But, I don’t know if this is a thing or not.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
What is your next show? What are you thinking of working on next?
I have a solo exhibition at Parisian Laundry in Montreal next year, continuing with the theme of striking workers. And I’ve been experimenting more with clothing and textiles for some new works for the Toronto Art Fair this fall.
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