Interview with Kohlene Hendrickson
Kohlene Hendrickson is a native Californian, but moved to Switzerland in 2000 where she has found "home" in the enchanted village of Romainmôtier. She studied Fine Arts at the Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles. She worked for 12 years as an illustrator and art director, then returned to fine arts by studying fresco with Frederico Vigil and continued her study of fresco in Italy. She has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the USA and in Europe ( France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria).
Her works belong to private and public collections and have been on the the highly successful TV series Will & Grace where her male nude drawings were featured. Kohlene is a grant recipient awarded by the NEW YORK COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS, the "Inaugural Mario Venturini Artist Residency" at HAC FLX (2015). She was awarded the "Grand Prix Europeo Albrecht Dürer" by the Accademia Gentilizia Il Marzocco of Florence for her painting AWAKENING in 2012. She was also a finalist in the BoldBrush awards for her painting DOUBLE VISION.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
As a young child a new box of color crayons was thrilling and I lost my self for hours drawing in my room. At 18, I chose to study fashion design in San Francisco, thinking it was a practical plan for my life, but was quickly singled out as being an illustrator rather than a designer. I moved to Los Angeles and worked as an illustrator and art director for the fashion and music industries, in parallel developing my skills as a fine artist. It was in a collective of artists with a nude model that I took myself by surprise, I had a distinctive style of drawing in large format with very expressive lines. My work was picked up by the Will & Grave TV series and they bought several of my art works for the set design.
In my 30’s, I discovered traditional fresco painting and studied with Frederico Vigil, an apprentice of the school of Diego Riviera and then continued my study of fresco in Italy, near Rome. During my summer in Italy, I was exposed to encaustic painting. My attraction to ancient painting techniques is the quality of their craftsmanship and the pure essence of the natural materials. Beeswax, resin, lime, sand, pigments, wood and water. I have continued working in both mediums but with a contemporary vision. I even started pouring pigment diluted in water onto the fresh lime plaster panels and had an amazing effect that I didn’t think was possible.
Shortly after my time in Italy, I received an invitation to develop a commemorative project for the declaration of human rights at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. One thing led to another and I moved to Switzerland in 2000 where I found "home" in the enchanted village of Romainmôtier. As I wasn’t allowed to do anything else but create art…I finally got the chance to dive full time into painting. Intensely, passionately…
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
For much of my life I was more comfortable floating in the cosmos. But thru deep self-work with an amazing sage, the original “YODA”, I managed to put my feet on the earth, be in touch with the emotions in my body and with shamanic botanicals experienced my PRIMAL self. The expression of my art is a state of being, the exploration and experience of the MULTI-DIMENSIONAL self. Embracing and experiencing all aspects of who we are.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It always starts with a feeling. I have an image loosely in mind and I start with the background. I’m working intuitively without any color plan or composition. With each step I listen and follow whatever arises in me. Sometimes it’s a color I don’t often use and have to reflect…ok, now what do I do with that. I listen again and follow what comes thru me.
I didn’t always create this way.
My perception of creativity changed radically after a strong shamanic experience. The message was « that only when you hold nothing fixed can true creativity enter ». I began pouring the paint rather than applying it with a paintbrush. In this process I am dancing between the hazard of the flowing paint and the edge of control.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I want them to FEEL something. It’s not a head experience. It’s not important that they understand it, but that it touches or awakens something in them. Perhaps subliminal, a calling for them to realize their own trinity of mind, spirit and primal self. I have clients that have shared with me that they put my painting next to the door entering and exiting their home, so it’s the first thing they see entering and in leaving it helps guide them into the world.
When do you know that an artwork is finished ?
Fortunately never a problem for me, it’s very clear.
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
There are so many instances to be excited or deeply moved. The most exhilarating is what passes thru me while creating art and the surprises that come with it. After that is the sharing and touching of souls who see and respond to my art. But, to answer the specific question of “career”? Taking the train to Florence, Italy to accept a prestigious award for my painting “AWAKENING”. I have often felt the influence of Michelangelo, so receiving an award in Florence from an academy that has it’s roots in the Medici legacy was profound for me.
How long does it take to produce one work?
My work doesn’t take many months as I’m an artist that is best with less, rather than more information. But the risk and thrill of each pour is intense, as is the sustained state of meditation. As I’m pouring colors, I often can only pour one color per day and must hold the energy until the pouring process is completed. After that I continue with the encaustic wax and it goes more quickly.
What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks?
I’m very excited to be in the development stage of co-founding “THE SUNDOG CENTER FOR ARTS AND SCIENCES OF CONSCIOUSNESS”, which will be based in both New York and Switzerland. This is going to embody the core focus of my work as an artist and collaborative life vision. My personal home will also host artists and scientists in residence.
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I have a solo show coming up the end of February in Vouvry, Switzerland at their Cultural Center. I have done so many exhibitions in the past that I’m taking some time out this year to develop a new body of artwork and launch the SUNDOG project. I invite you to visit my website “kohlene.com”.
Where do you see your art going in five years?
I believe that whatever vision I might have, the universe most likely has a grander one for me! I would like to see my art in museums that expose me as an artist dancing between the mastery of the renaissance with contemporary vision. It would also be my dream to have dedicated collectors who really appreciate my art.