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Culture and family define artist’s work

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff
The "Veil" is a curtain-like piece with salt crystals on felt. Photo courtesy of Annie Kennedy
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The Kimball Art Center will feature one of its own in Art Talk Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

For the first time, Annie Kennedy’s work will be on display in an exhibition entitled "Preserved Emblems in the Badami" at the Kimball Art Center through Nov. 29. Kennedy is the education director at the Kimball.

"There will be food and me telling the personal perspective of the process how I arrived and the history of my discovery of being an artist," Kennedy said.

"My art talk will be a lot more personal," she continued. "I think I’m going to talk a little about allowing oneself to physically interact with art. Being aware of your body when you are standing in front of a painting, personal motivation and the process and the discovery and ideas."

Kennedy didn’t find herself until she moved to the East Coast from Salt Lake City.

After four years at the Rhode Island School of Design where she received her bachelor’s of fine arts, she moved to New York to attend Parson’s Graduate School of Design. At that point she reached a sort of artist’s mid-life crisis.

"I was at a time, when I was moving to New York, I was looking around at paintings and I just had stacks and stacks of drawings on paper and they seemed very separate from my life," Kennedy said. "I thought that it didn’t interact with my life outside of art making. I think I felt a lot of conflict about choosing to be an artists, it felt selfish to me."

There she found an appreciation for the culture she was raised with in Utah. She always loved art, but now it has meaning for her.

"I think when I was in art school, I realized how much of a unique culture I had," Kennedy said. "I wasn’t different from the average kid, but I started to realize, over time, the cultural differences."

Those differences and her beliefs in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints provided the place where Kennedy could draw art inspiration.

"I thought a lot of mortality. I think that has really affected me, I’m really interested in the ideas of spirituality and a power that we can’t define. A lot of my favorite artwork has a power, a presence and an ability to transcend what it’s made out of."

This process was essential for building not only the artists inside her, but also the person.

"It’s one of those things that I recognized what made me different and I appreciated it," Kennedy said. "I think everyone has to go through that process. Everyone has to figure it out for themselves."

This process took a deep inspection of where she came from and where the artist inside her was going.

"It was me translating it for myself and understanding this culture I came from. I made it mine where no one else could make me do that.

"It was a chance to explore this idea of what it meant to be an artist and tackle my ideas of the world and reconcile them of my own decisions, to negotiate between things I’ve been given and where I’m going.

"It’s a lot of what inheritance is about and what life is about,"

A lot of her work represents parts of Mormon culture but also spirituality in general and some of her life growing up with her mother.

"My mom was a chemistry major at Harvard, she was at home and the kitchen became her laboratory," Kennedy said.

One item she has constructed is a veil. The veil is made of velvet with salt crystals shimmering off its surface. Kennedy used a technique her mother used with chemistry experiments by boiling salt water to create the crystals.

"I feel sort of like I’m emulating her." Kennedy said. "Some of the things I do is imitating her in someway, it’s kind of reconciling to her. It’s come to take on a lot of other meanings: carrying on this culture and giving the things that my parents gave to me. I take things that have been given to me from my parents and culture and retranslate them to make them mine."

This transformation process has made her more fulfilled with her art.

"I now understand and have a belief in the power of art and what it can do," Kennedy said. Art is about putting the artist’s place in the universe, she added. "That’s one of the great things about art and the museums."

During this transformation she also used a different vehicle to express herself. When before it was drawings and paintings, she now constructs alternative media sculptures or sculptures mixed with drawings and any media that are not typical art materials.

"I appreciate the power of other materials," Kennedy said. "It’s about reconfiguring matter and responding to ideas of time and my own translation of the things I’ve been given.

"It’s more about the re-translation of things. Somehow we throw all this stuff that comes together and creates something bigger than themselves individually," Kennedy said.

Using other materials in sculpture, she says, creates an appreciation for all the small things around us.

"It’s about appreciating the things we interact with and looking at ordinary or non art materials in a new way that you can appreciate them," Kennedy said. "Everything around us we need to think about. I really like that idea, it makes sort of a richer life and that’s what its all about."

One of her pieces uses a pattern designed from sardine cans. She often uses food, survival and preparation methods in her work.

"My friend said she can’t walk through that aisle (with sardines) in the grocery store without thinking of them," Kennedy said.

While much of her work deals with the Mormon culture, she isn’t trying to promote the religion, she is merely expressing parts of her life and what has been important to her. There are other pieces in her work that do not directly connect with her faith.

"I don’t know if my work will always deal with Mormon culture or ideas," she said. "I have a couple pieces of cross-sections of brains, a lot of representations of paper that relate to the body. They are iconography and don’t deal directly with LDS (Church)."

"Many of the images I use," she wrote on her Web site, "such as the sego lily and the beehive, have historical significance or are symbolic emblems representing the state of Utah or the LDS Church. Though my art carries specific meaning within the Mormon community, I hope to communicate ideas of spirituality, safety, legacy and ceremony that can be understood by a universal audience."

Annie Kennedy will present Art Talk at the Kimball Art Center at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 18. Her artwork will be displayed in an exhibition entitled "Preserved Emblems" in the Badami Gallery at the Kimball Art Center through Nov. 29. The event is open to the public as are all the galleries and exhibitions. For more information, call 649-8882.


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