CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
KS: I have a few different styles of art that I focus on and do this for various reasons. For the last ten years some of my work has become more politically and environmentally inspired starting with work I made in 2007 called Arabian Camel’s & Crude Oil, work about crude oil, transportation and environmental degradation; 2010: Apex Predators-Body Parts, which is work about poaching animals illegally for body parts, such as an Elephant for its tusks; and the most recent work SNAFU (situation normal all fucked up), which is a body of work about different aspects of the gun culture in America including my most recent work about mass shootings in schools. My hope when I make this type of work is to inspire thought and discussion about the subject and to highlight important issues in our world that are crucial to our well being. Often, this work can be very intense to think about, research and create so that is where some of the other work I make acts as a great balance for my happiness. Petite Blue is a body of work that I turned into a brand about two years ago. The first Petite Blue piece was made in 1998. Cyanotype on stretched canvas is the medium and the content is simply images of ballerinas and as well images from my visual vocabulary that I have used over many years. They are often nostalgic of a time and place that many people can relate to. I have other work that I make as well with animal and constellation imagery, offering me a reprieve from the more intense work. All of my work has pop culture photographic elements with influences of minimalism and abstraction.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
KS: It comes from many sources ranging from reading, listening to the news, eating an amazing meal, listening to music, seeing a play, talking with my husband or daughter, seeing art, my dreams, my visions…. I live in Ithaca NY, which has a small art community compared to that of my previous home, the Bay Area. When I travel to NYC or other large cities I try to check out galleries or museums and beautiful stores.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
KS: I will get an idea/concept and/or a vision in my head and usually that will stick with me for a while. Sometimes I can create it right away, other times it will take me months or even years to create. I have many stored away right now as I write. The creation comes down to urgency, funding, time and a place to show. Sometimes I write or draw my ideas in my notebook, but sometimes it is so etched in my brain that there is no need to put it on paper. I can access anytime and I do… and I develop the idea and the visuals. I think through all I need to do to create the final piece… collect the imagery, information about the subject and create. There is a method the whole time. Only when I have the final vision do I start to actually create. With certain pieces there is a framework with freedom within, to be spontaneous but with other work everything is set and I am just a technician making the work.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
KS: I make my work often about large subjects but the object is often very minimal and simple. I keep it simple on purpose. My hope is that the viewer will see something beautiful and poignant, as well as be struck by the object and the imagery enough to walk away with a new perspective, a thought, a vision.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
KS: Well it has changed over the years, but the one constant is that ever since I graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995 I have always managed to have a studio or a place that I can work. I have had 11 studios over the years. I typically make art between 9-5 and have always worked best that way. Over the years I have had many jobs to supplement my income and have been lucky enough to always have time to dedicate to my art career.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
KS: I always have a plan. With certain pieces or bodies of work there is room for freedom and spontaneity but my starting point is a plan. Along the way there are always happy accidents.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
KS: To get clarity and realistic on my artistic goals. My goals when I was younger were not my goals…they were fed to me by my family, many artists themselves. My goals are simple: enjoy my life, make art, cook, learn to play the guitar, travel and have fun with my family and friends.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
KS: I regard integrity to be of highest importance. With this comes personal style and taste, but without integrity, there can be a lot of bullshit and ego that I do not find attractive.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
KS: At times it can be isolating.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
KS: When I have to go to a party or an event and I do not have the right outfit I can always use the excuse that I am an artist… I can wear white in the winter, black in the summer and pink any time I want. Seriously though, I love the ability to express subjects visually ranging from beauty to guns and have my creations connect with the viewer however it may. That is powerful.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
KS: Gerhard Richter, Vija Celmins, Robert Rauschenburg, el anatsui, Damian Hirst, Deborah Butterfiel
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
KS: Technology is a useful tool, one that I use in some way every time I create a piece of art, but a tool that should be used and then put down like any tool. Some artists obviously use technology more than others, and it has definitely made many aspects of being an artist easier, which I am grateful for, but like anything, all in moderation.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
KS: Yes. I was lucky to grow up with a lot of creative people around me, so the way I think and what I do always seemed normal. I am very passionate about life, the way I live, how I spend my days, from making art to having a picnic. This is not to say that people that are not creative are not passionate; however, I do appreciate the way I live my life and think my artistic self inspires that.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
KS: I love traveling and hope to do more in the coming years. I was in Tuscany, Italy in 1993 for 2 months doing an artists residency at Studio Camnitzer. I felt like I was home in Italy. The food, the wine, the piazzas, the kisses, landscapes…it all was delicious. I hope to go to Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Cuba and many more places in this world. My husband, daughter and I are traveling to Berlin this fall to visit our friends and check out a new part of the world. Looking forward for that.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
KS: Italio Calvino: two adolescence, Thik Nhat Han: Peace in every step, Michael Pollan: Food Rules. I just finished All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which was very beautiful. My grandfather was a navigator in WW2 and flew 52 missions, so parts of this story were like finding pieces to a puzzle I am still working on.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
KS: I would like to do more public art. I just had a show at the Ithaca Public Library where I put 16 guns that I painted on plywood that were used in mass school shootings and they were placed on the book shelves in the main part of the library. This was powerful to have the public interact with this work in this way.
As well, last year I was commissioned by the City of Ithaca to make a public art piece that was hanging outside on a beautiful brick building for six months. This work was much lighter in subject matter, animals and constellations screen printed, spray painted and gold leafed on masonite. They were colorful, beautiful and popped…I loved making this work and knowing it was outside and at any time of the day anyone could see it. Very inclusive! I would love to make more of that work in other cities around the world.
I am learning how to play the guitar and I hope one day I can play at one of my openings.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
KS: Being an artist means that I get to create a form, object or image from the visions, ideas and feelings that are constantly moving through me. Sometimes what I see and then create is simply about beauty and other times what I see and then create is about controversial subjects. This can feel like a big responsibility because I have to take great care and sensitivity with the subject matter.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
KS: The last songs I listened to were “Atlantic City” and “The River” by Bruce Springsteen.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
KS: When I was a young artist, many people told me I had to find my look and stick with it so people would recognize my art. This made sense in theory, but in practice that seemed boring to me. When I get an idea about a new piece of art, I think about the concept and then think about what material and what process will work best to create this art. Some artists have a very distinct style and brand if you will. Take Elsworth Kelly or Lichtenstein: they are very recognizable. Gerhard Richter is an artist that I have always been inspired by due to his many different styles of painting: so different, yet they are what inspires him and why restrict that? I have a few constants in my work, but otherwise the aesthetic of my work is inspired by the subject matter.
CHECK OUT MORE ON: KADIE SALFI & PETITE BLUE