Artist Interview: Sharon Kyle Kuhn

Sharon Kyle Kuhn is a San Francisco based artist who works with intriguing and unusual industrial materials collected from the streets and near construction sites to create wall sculptures and paintings. She transforms found materials such as wood, asphalt and concrete into pliable mediums for creating art, resulting in work that is extremely tactile and unique. Her work can be found in private residences throughout the U.S. and in public collections including Ernst and Young in Dallas, University of Texas at Austin and The Medical Center in San Antonio.

We are thrilled to have six works of art by Sharon on display in our Pattern Language exhibition at DZINE Gallery, running through March 18, 2016.

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WHAT EARLY INFLUENCES LED YOU DOWN THE PATH OF BECOMING AN ARTIST?

I knew as a teenager that I wanted to pursue a creative life and that’s what I’m doing, so I feel incredibly grateful. After enrolling in college to study architecture and design, I landed a summer job working in commercial real estate and, seduced by a steady income, joined the nine-to-five world and put my college studies on hold. A couple years later, I found myself living in Atlanta and working for a group of commercial real estate developers. After several years spent in collaboration with architects, designers, contractors and retail tenants, I was laid off – the best thing that ever happened to me.

I was ready for a new beginning and two of my best friends encouraged me to go back to school, create art and follow my original path. With firm commitment and courage, I moved to New York to pursue the unknown. I completed a degree in art at New York University and was extremely fortunate to have met so many people in the art world during those years. My professors were accomplished artists, and the diverse group of collectors, critics and the many artists I met while employed at a gallery were all influential. My time spent working as an assistant to an amazing curator and art historian was invaluable, as well.

YOU WORK WITH INTERESTING MATERIALS INCLUDING WOOD, CONCRETE, ASPHALT, BEESWAX AND URBAN DEBRIS – WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WORKING WITH INDUSTRIAL MATERIALS AND WHAT’S YOUR PROCESS FOR CREATING YOUR ART LIKE?

I am attracted to texture, color and smells. It’s a joy to roam through the trash bins of Bay Area woodworkers who donate remnants of their work from time to time and it’s equally as exciting to open a box of beeswax sent to me from beekeepers. The fragrance fills my studio and the variations in texture and color seen in the collection of exotic wood scraps always inspire me.

Asphalt and concrete are used in so much of the environment where we live and work. We drive on it, walk on it and even find shelter in buildings that often have one of these materials in the structure. You might say these materials are the foundation of urban living. In addition to their obvious uses, the very nature of concrete and asphalt is perfect for carving, fusing and creating unusual texture.

It’s never clear to me why I am attracted to a particular object, but I have been known to drag rusted springs once used in a car seat, but now left for the trash, up a flight of stairs to my studio just because I thought they were beautiful, or reach into a dumpster to get a piece of wood, or even gather a pile of rusted nails off the street because I like the way they look.

Things most people would throw away may sit in my studio for months until the moment comes when they are blended into my work, or often they will become the starting point for a piece. Until then, they bring comfort and definitely add ambiance to my studio.

HOW IS YOUR ART INFLUENCED BY LIVING AND WORKING IN THE BAY AREA? 

The evidence of new construction throughout the Bay Area influences my work greatly. There is no shortage of inspiration that comes from the variation of colors, building materials and geometric shapes flooding our city’s skyline, and absolutely no shortage of salvageable trash to be found as a result of the rapid growth in new housing options. Although it has become harder to find affordable studio space, the energy here combined with the natural beauty of the area and the diverse culture that San Francisco attracts keeps me grounded and I am always filled with creative thoughts.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW? DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW, EXCITING PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE FOR 2016?

My work increases in scale regularly and I find myself experimenting with new materials such as fabric, larger objects and more unusual shapes. I’m also exploring three dimensional ideas, installation pieces and site specific commissions. I want to push beyond my current body of work, and with every new idea there are new frustrations and challenges. I’m included in a three-person show which opens June 9 in San Jose, and I am planning a solo show for early 2017.

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Planned Development | Asphalt, encaustic and wood on wooden panel hung with french cleats/framed

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Keeping Score | Concrete, industrial paint and chalk on wooden panel/framed

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Suspended | Asphalt, encaustic and wood on cradled wood panels hung with french cleats

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Untitled I, Untitled II & Untitled III | Concrete, industrial paint and chalk on wooden panel/framed

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