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by Erin Dunn, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Unable to visit artist studios in person right now, I have entered the world of the virtual studio tour. Recently, I interviewed artist Kamryn Shawron, who graduated from SCAD

A Zoom virtual studio visit of Kamryn Shawron’s studio.

with her BFA in Fibers in 2016. Shawron’s artwork often melds a variety of media, and frequently combines painting and beading on top of a found photograph or a photograph of her own making. This additive process embellishes and enhances the meaning of the layered work. She willingly answered some of my questions and we met for the first time on Zoom to discuss her studio practice and a new project she has started. She has been using her time at home to further her progress on the new work in addition to continuing to create smaller-scale beaded and painted found photographs.

Kamryn’s studio is situated in a dedicated corner of her 700-square-foot apartment in downtown Savannah, a space that is currently overtaken by a large-scale 4-foot x 3-foot canvas. The work in progress features bright red letters against a white textured background. The texture on the canvas was achieved through Kamryn and her partner throwing darts at paint-filled balloons attached to the canvas in a similar manner to the shooting paintings (but without the firepower!) of the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Kamryn’s supplies and tools in her studio.

The painstakingly-beaded text adhered to the canvas uses a phrase from her own creative writing that creates a vibrant contrast against the white background.

Erin Dunn (ED): You went to SCAD for your BFA in Fibers — can you give some insight into your development into working outside of your designated major into multiple mediums including photography and painting? Your work explores various mediums in an interesting way.

Kamryn Shawron (KS): Fibers is a really multifaceted department/media. I think that was one of the most rewarding things about being in our department was seeing the different avenues people took. Everything from print and pattern to performance work, or really inspired fine art pieces. I think as far as my work goes, you could be really technical and say that photography — or the act of printing a photo on paper brings the image to a fiber based surface. The reality is I’ve always had an interest in photography, in capturing moments that will never happen the exact same way again. And I’ve always sort of dabbled in painting. Fibers is an all-encompassing textural medium. I’ve always just approached it that way. Incorporating different media to create new tactile surfaces.

New work in progress.

ED: Transformation seems to be a big theme in your art, whether it is taking a found image and adding beadwork on top or taking the photographs of your friends and painting on top of them. Can you expand on how you see this embellishment of the original image and how it is adding additional meaning to the piece?

KS: I think that transformation in general is a theme in life, and in our personal growth as makers. The embellishment of each image is really more of an enhancement than anything. For the vintage images, I feel it gives them a new sort of personality. I see myself as a stylist of sorts, like my embellishments are costuming the subjects of each image. Overall though it’s about creating an inviting exterior for the onlooker. I want people to enjoy the excess of the beadwork, immediately visually recognizing the transformation in the surface.

  New work in progress.

ED: When you made the photographs for Painted PPL did you already have a vision for the finished product and how the photographs and additives would work together or did the painting and beading process develop more organically on top of the photograph?

KS: Each of the subjects in the Painted PPL series are friends of mine, and they were each selected because I had an idea of a shoot/props that spoke to each of them. The shoots themselves are really organic, outside of the styling/accessories I give to each of them, the rest is completely natural. And I think that’s the best part. I love to see people unapologetically enjoying themselves. Whether it’s with cake spread all over their face or yellow rubber gloves on.

Each image is about each person in a particular moment that we will never be able to replicate. The additive processes after the image is printed are sort of thumbnailed in a sketchbook before I work on the large scale image. Sorting out color stories and deciding what to bead is primarily the purpose of the early sketches.

ED: From my perspective your art seems to blur the boundaries between the stereotypical demarcations of beauty/ugly; decoration/fine art; masculine/feminine; sensuality/grotesqueness. Do you seek these contradictions in your work, or do you view them through a different lens?

KS: I think that’s a really interesting perspective. That observation speaks a lot to the themes of my senior work when I was in college — that I do probably carry with me in my current work. We had to pick a word to sort of live at the core of our creations. I chose unashamed. Embracing the embarrassing nitty gritty aspects of life. Our ideas of ourselves are frequently contradicting, it seems fitting that my work reflects the reality of that. My subjects are people close to me, so I am not immune to their own insecurities and dueling feelings they have of themselves. Insecurities, confidences, hubris and humility. These conflicts are definitely underlying themes not only in my work but in the people I photograph.

Installation view of painted PPL at Rat on Bull, 2019

Finally, I asked Kamryn to expand on what she thinks about the Savannah art scene and she mentioned that she finds a lot to appreciate in the artistic community including a newer, unique space called 2201, run by Brittany Reidy, that adopts an unusual gallery model in which a halved space offers gallery space for free one side and a living space for the gallery owner on the other. In addition, she mentioned the jewelry-encrusted assemblages of Monica Cioppettini as an artist that she has been following.

Thank you, Kamryn, for taking the time to answer my questions. One day I look forward to following up with an in-person studio visit!

This studio visit is affiliated with Telfair Museums’ #art912 program, an initiative dedicated to raising the visibility and promoting the vitality of artists living and working in Savannah through exhibition opportunities, public programs, and outreach.

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