Monday, January 14, 2013

Kat Kiernan

Kat Kiernan received her BFA in Photography from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2011. Dedicated to the art of storytelling, she has exhibited her photographic narratives all along the east coast and her work has been featured in various publications. She was recently named one of 30 emerging women photographers under the age of 30 to watch by Photoboite Agency. She currently resides in Lexington, Virginia, where she owns and directs The Kiernan Gallery in addition to photographing professionally. Her stock photography is represented by Glasshouse Images.

View more of Kat's work here:

You are the Owner and Director of The Kiernan Gallery in Lexington, Virginia. How and why did you open this gallery? What are your plans for its future? 

When I graduated with my BFA in photography, I was surprised at how many aspiring photographers were graduating with sparse resumes. At the time I had only a handful of juried shows and publications to my name. It is difficult enough to adjust to post-college life. Even more so as an artist. Without any exhibition history this career path can be daunting. I thought that there should be a place for my peers to showcase their work. I wanted highly respected artists, curators, and editors to see their photography, make connections, and further their careers. While there are many talented artists who have found success with a minimal exhibition history, I have found that editing work for submissions is a valuable experience. Printing, framing, and shipping pieces are important parts of the process. The exhibitions I participated in taught me a lot about of thinking of my portfolio as a final product, from shooting to packaging and delivery. In short, this gallery was made by me for artists just like me.

The Kiernan Gallery is an ever-evolving project. In the year or so since we opened, we have added a blog to feature our jurors and some of our artists, and to provide tips and advice on art business. We have built off of our group shows by expanding into solo exhibitions, some of which are non-photographic.

The gallery gives artists the opportunity to exhibit work that may be in progress or not part of a portfolio. Holding calls for entry is an excellent way to find new talent. I am constantly seeking new ways to present up and coming artists. Perhaps the biggest news for us has been our expansion into “in-studio solo exhibitions.” I would like to see this program continue in the future.

What do you feel is powerful about photography? Why have you chosen this medium? 

For a photograph to exist, the subject must have been physically present at some point. A camera can only record what is in front of it. With photography, the idea of an image serves only as a means to get out in the field. Once there, I can work with unexpected surroundings or lighting to create a variation on what I had preconceived. If I were a different type of visual artist, my artwork would only be as good as my technical ability to manifest the idea. With photography, I am forced to adapt my vision to all the wonderfully unexpected factors that I encounter.

I have always been fascinated by photography’s ability to manipulate reality. Photoshop aside, there are many in-camera techniques that can distort the viewer’s perception of what is real. Even more simply, the act of making a photograph is a selective truth, by choosing what to exclude from the frame and at what moment to release the shutter. My work often straddles the line between fantasy and reality. Some projects like The Sailor’s Wife are subtler than others like Between Earth and Water, but ultimately it is this flux between the real and the unreal that interests me.

What are you thoughts on space, place, object and narrative in your series, The Sailor's Wife

The Sailor’s Wife is a semi-autobiographical series. By physically placing myself into the image, I was both playing a character in a constructed narrative, while living a very similar role. The narrative is about a woman attempting to communicate with her husband under impossible circumstances. The locations used were personal to my story and often added to the futility of the woman’s actions. I used nautical items to symbolize emotional lifelines and tools of expression, repurposing them to suit my shore-bound needs. 

How do you balance running your gallery and creating and promoting your own photography? 

For the first five or so months after opening The Kiernan Gallery I barely touched my camera. I spent that time focused on the gallery and promoting earlier bodies of work. This past March I started work on a new portfolio that is still in progress. Making new work ignited a creative spark and I now have several projects happening at once. Additionally, this past fall/winter I am focusing heavily on Foxhunting in Virginia. There is a much longer-term project on the horizon as well but it is in its infant stages.

I try to spend three to four days a week at the gallery doing only gallery-related things and set aside each day for a certain project. As for promotion, I spend a lot of time at the gallery looking at work and inevitably come across opportunities for artists. I keep a running list of deadlines and the relevant information and when something seems right for a certain portfolio, I go for it.

Wearing two hats as both gallerist and photographer is a balance I struggle with constantly. The gallery has hard deadlines I must adhere to, emails that must be answered at all hours, and problems that must be solved swiftly. Too often, this puts photography on the back burner. Applying for opportunities to show my photography is something I am very good about keeping up with. That can be done after the light is gone for the day, or on a break from the gallery. It is the photography itself that has become a slower process. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing as I more fully value the time spent photographing and take care to stick with a shoot until it is right, understanding that it may be a few days or weeks before I will have the opportunity again. 

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