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Meet Claudia Kunin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Kunin.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
At university, I fell into a despondent state, feeling as if I had nothing unique to offer to the world.

At the time, I was pursuing a degree in psychology. I saw no need for yet another therapist. My roommates were artists. I was envious of their artistic self-expression. I sought help. The school psychologist suggested I was lonely. He was so far off the mark in his characterization that I grew angry. I left there with fire in my belly, and as I walked home, I started seeing everything around me with frames around it, visually editing the passing scene as you do when you take a photograph. I went home, called my parents, asking them to send me my sister’s old 35mm camera. I started taking pictures and didn’t stop for the next 40 years.

Please tell us about your art.
The hinge pin of my work is the pursuit of the ineffable, the intangible forces in life. My attempts to reanimate the past are all efforts to touch upon the evanescent, elusive, invisible world of ghosts and memory. Be it making photographs of mythological figures, depicting an elusive family history that precedes my birth, the hidden depths of persona disguised by disability, or the subconscious mind that crosses that ineluctable borderland between life and death, I am making the invisible visible.

In a surprising twist, I no longer take photographs. I am motivated to use what I already have to create my short, animated films. My most recent work involves animating daguerreotypes, re-animating, or bringing back to life what has been frozen in time.

My first exposure to photographs was stereographic. My father photographed our family with a “Stereo Realist” camera. Gazing upon them as a small child, I saw reality, our family, and yet there was something oddly mysterious about it, otherworldly. That sense of “otherworldliness” is an important element of my work. I am addressing the part of the mind that is concerned with the intangibilities of memory and the expression of the subconscious. All the imagery and animations are in “anaglyphic” 3D form. They are viewable in stereo by wearing red/cyan glasses. The use of the magical spectacles allows the viewer to inhabit this “deeper” place of perception.

I hope to create a sense of wonder in my audience. The ultimate achievement is touching people in such a way that they laugh or cry.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
I think it is extremely challenging to rely solely on one’s art for financial support. I actually made my living as a commercial and editorial photographer with occasional shows of my personal work along the way. I did not feel I could safely pursue a career as an artist until I had saved enough money through my professional life. All my adult life, I saved 10 % of my income towards my retirement. This made it possible to retire at the age of 50 to follow my life long dream of just making art.

In addition, I would like to say that I think the most important thing to know as an artist, is that when you are most frightened and overwhelmed by the possibility of failing miserably, you should start anyway despite your trepidations. Art is not for the faint of heart… and making mistakes is at the core of success. In the end, it seems to me that the art of creation is just stumbling through a project, and making a series of mistakes, perceiving them, and then correcting them. Every single time I have an idea, I haven’t a clue how to manifest it. I am always a beginner, running blindly down a dark alley and through the process to an unknown end.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Currently, some of my animated daguerreotypes are on view through January 2020 in the exhibit “Hidden Worlds” at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego.

They can also be seen by clicking on this link: http://claudiakunin.com/3d-animations.

My art has been extensively published, as well as receiving numerous awards. Previous exhibitions at various prestigious institutions include the Annenberg Space for Photography, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Jewish Museum of Vienna, the Maison de Daguerre, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

My work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Getty Research Institute, U.C.L.A. Special Collections and the Museum of Photographic Arts. My archive will be housed in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History’s Photographic Collection.

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Image Credit:

Claudia Kunin

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2 Comments

  1. Ruth Barrett

    July 1, 2019 at 23:07

    Thank you for interviewing photographic artist and visionary, Claudia Kunin. It is refreshing to hear about her artistic pursuits that are no about commercial success, but in bringing mystery and story to the viewer. Living in a time where money is too often the motivator, Claudia has figured out how to have her art lead the way. Brava!

  2. Judith Kalmus

    July 2, 2019 at 04:20

    Claudia, I am so happy that you are doing so well with all the work you have put in all these years. I just love your work because it is so close to your heart, that is what makes it so special. Love you, Claudia!!! Bravo!

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