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Conversations with Miranda Kahn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Miranda Kahn.

Hi Miranda, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I always loved making things out of paper since I was a little kid. I made everything from pop up cards to paper clothes – once I made a 3d vacuum cleaner out of paper. I went to undergrad for acting and graduated and lived in NYC where a director friend asked me if I could do a shadow puppetry piece for a play she was developing. I said I didn’t know how but I would try. And then I discovered how shadow puppetry brought together my love of creating objects out of paper and my love of acting. I got my MFA at CalArts and serendipitously CalArts had an amazing puppetry teacher, Janie Geiser, who is an incredible person and puppet artist and she really helped me develop my shadow puppetry in a way I wouldn’t have imagined. She also encouraged me to take a stop motion class which I loved and then had the idea of putting together my shadow puppets and stop motion. I love to make very delicate images out of paper which are painstaking labors of love that take many hours to complete. I find the process very meditative and centering. I also love to make my paper images come to life through stop motion animation. I feel that shadow puppets can be deeply emotionally evocative because we are able to imbue an object with all our own emotions. I am passionate about social justice and working toward mental health awareness.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Definitely, my life as an artist has not been a smooth road. I do not think that the arts are supported as they should be in this country (especially non-commercial art). But I always find joy and renewal in art and so no matter how challenging, I always come back to it. My grandparents were painters and they made art their whole lives- when my Grandfather lost most of his sight and could not see to paint anymore he started making weathervane sculptures by feel. I am so inspired by their artistic lives and I know that no matter what I do to make a living at my core, I am an artist.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am very proud of a short documentary I created called Shadow Life which explores a young woman’s experiences working through colorism, racism, and mental illness. Interview footage of Shaina Lynn Simmons, a performing artist who grew up in New Orleans, is intermixed with stop motion animated shadow puppetry to tell a story about mental illness, race in America, and healing. I love getting the opportunity to share stories of power, and hope. I also have been doing a lot of paper cutouts of animals that I am very excited about, I love the grace and beauty of animals and “finding” them in my work.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
I think the best advice I received is to follow your passion. I think we get caught up in trying to do what we think we should when usually the best work is when we are excited and moved to tell a story.

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