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Conversations with Adrienne Kinsella

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adrienne Kinsella.

Hi Adrienne, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Of course! I grew up on the Westside of Los Angeles. My mother’s family lived here for several generations, and my father is a descendant of the Gabrielino/Tongva, native to the LA region. This makes for some pretty deep roots in the area. I was very fortunate to have a mother who regularly took my sisters and I to the local art museums. Pieces in the LACMA collection are some of my earliest memories, along with the visual backdrop of public artworks by Millard Sheets, Kent Twitchell, Rip Cronk, and Robbie Conal. I was exposed to an array of visual expressions from a very young age.

My love of art was always an undercurrent, but I didn’t fully embrace it until returning to school later in life. I knew that If I was going to pursue a degree with two young boys at home, I would have to be incredibly dedicated to the subject I would pursue. When I looked deep within, I knew my heart was in the art world. Beginning with one class, and slowly increasing the workload, I discovered a unique kind of belonging amidst the community of fellow artists, faculty and mentors that further confirmed I was on the right track.

Navigating various challenges and now fully embracing a career in the arts, I achieved my MFA from California State University, Northridge, in the spring of 2021. To be a working artist and educator, now teaching at CSUN, College of the Canyons and Otis College of Art & Design has landed me in a career where I know I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do. To be making work and inspiring the next generation to do so is incredibly rewarding.

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?
Someone recently said to me that anything really worth it doesn’t come easy. So to quickly answer that, I’d say it’s been anything but smooth and yet totally worth it…

This became most recently highlighted having been in grad school during the pandemic. I’ve described the abruptness of the shift to “shelter in place” like being thrown from a moving vehicle. To go from having my own studio, working in the gallery on campus, assistant teaching and finding a rare synergy with those I was surrounded with, to that order around March 14th, 2020, to “GO HOME” was incredibly tough to process. With this all being accompanied by the stressful ambiguity of a global pandemic, I was seemingly losing what I had worked so hard for. However, through amazingly dedicated advisors and friends who encouraged me to not give up and keep making work, I pressed through the whirlwind of emotions and kept going. I had to find new reasons to make work, to keep producing, especially when everything in me wanted to collapse. I’m very grateful to say that I produced a thesis and body of work I am deeply proud of, and though we did not have a commencement, I completed an MFA degree amidst considerable adversity.

As we slowly emerge from this pandemic, it has been a bit like driving after a car crash. That first time behind the wheel again is unnerving…you remember the impact and pain, but if you never face the fear and get behind the wheel again, you may never drive again. Getting back on track after whatever life throws at you can be challenging, and yet with the sparkle and hope that comes from those around us, and from understanding there’s something beyond us and our understanding, we can keep going. Eventually, things get less scary. Pursuing a career as an artist and educator has had its stresses and strains on my family, on myself and taught me that it takes a significant amount of grit to achieve your goals.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
My work has been a journey…

The early pieces were shaped by experiences of growing up in Los Angeles and directly references the city’s propensity to erase its own history on a continual basis. Earthquakes, fires and mudslides aside, LA has a strange fascination with the wrecking ball. Some of these pieces came out of a compulsion to “paint it before it’s torn down,” as civic touchpoints vanished throughout my life and continue to do so. This pattern of disappearance was personal as well. The Santa Monica bungalow where I grew up was demolished and replaced by apartments, and my grandparents’ home was lost in the Malibu fires of 1993. In addition to capturing vanishing views, these works also provide a somewhat personal vantage point. Rather than portraying postcard-ready facades, I prefer to give unexpected views from an insider’s perspective.

As my work evolved, influences of Hollywood and a mid-century aesthetic still reference the city. The presence of monsters is less about the icons themselves and more about our collective attempts to fit into various social circles and circumstances. Soon jello became a stand-in for the monsters, a sparkling, monstrous substance, technically edible yet made of the unthinkable. Jello is structural, yet temporal, a fitting summation of a vanishing past, a midcentury monster, and it possesses a unique ability to reveal interior and exterior simultaneously. This idea of inside and outside continued in the work, especially through the lockdown months where ideas of loss and absence became especially pronounced.

My more recent paintings still address concepts of inside and outside, as California native plants and animals share domestic interiors with solitary figures. This not only suggests a temporality of physical structures but a contemplation of what it means to feel safe, even if just for a moment. Loss of access is an ongoing issue, and I’m finding ways to reconstruct the idea of “dwelling” by suggesting inaccessible spaces where past, present, interior and exterior mingle. The recent drawings also play on these themes, with some presenting figures in austere psychological spaces, while others are presented in lush botanical scenes where each plant is symbolic.

The use of myself as a model arose from the lockdown and yet has continued. In presenting personal struggles in my artwork, and my very person, the hope is to provide gateways to viewers to enter the work, visual bridges through familiar views, nostalgic reference points and emotions and experiences that aren’t always easy to discuss. I consider myself quite fortunate to be making work in the current moment; where such a diversity of subject matter, approach and style find audience and acceptance; and I hope to contribute to this multifaceted conversation.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
I think in all honesty, I’d have to describe a combination of things…

I believe that to really succeed, you need to be genuine. Any accomplishment, if not authentically desired or achieved quickly fades in significance. I think also, perhaps counterintuitively, you have to lift up those around you in order to succeed. When we seek to crush those around us, it only reveals we don’t really believe in our own capabilities. Additionally, I believe that kindness goes a long way. We are ultimately all in this together, and practicing a little kindness and grace for those around us is essential. Lastly, but no less important, is a dedicated work ethic, where learning to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to what counts is vital to success.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
1. Creature Comfort, Oil on paper, 60 x 40 inches, 2019 2. Deep In Conversation, Oil on canvas, 32 x 24, 2019 3. Barred (Firebrand & Angel), Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, 2020 4. Someday, Maybe, Colored pencil on frosted mylar, 19 x 26 inches, 2020 5. When No One’s Looking, Colored pencil on frosted mylar, 36 x 36 inches, 2022 6. Conjecture, Colored pencil on frosted mylar, 42 x 36 inches, 2021 7. Here, Oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, 2022 8. Fire Scene, Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches, 2021

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