Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimberlee Koym-Murteira.
Hi Kimberlee, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in Texas the daughter of a peace corps volunteer bipolar father and religiously judgmental mother haunted by paranoia. They divorced with much conflict when I was a child. Lost in themselves, I went into nature and making to find my way on my own. My fragmented suburban life was augmented by much time spent on my family’s ranch and in a small town near the hill country in Texas with my grandparents and Aunt & Uncles. I had sweet loving relationships with them. They were kind and resourceful, full of depression era resilience lessons they instilled in me.
Here my own beliefs, practices, and rituals came alive and within the conservative backdrop of Texas. At 17, I entered college at the University of Texas at Austin with a full scholarship based on merit and financial need. I graduated and became a set designer and scenic artist, following one creative project after another in theatre and later the film industry. I loved the collaborative nature of the productions and the large-scale aspect of painting scenery requiring me to engage my whole body in the process.
As someone who had lived their whole life in Texas, I yearned to travel and experience differing cultures. My interest in other cultures and travel fueled me leaving LA for grad school at Central St Martins, London, participating in programs in Holland and Finland. I loved the experimental nature of the Scenography program and a strong artist community among classmates.
Wanting to stay in Europe, I followed a romance, moved to Portugal to live and started a 22 years relationship with the father of my children that took us from Utrecht to Lisbon to Austin and finally settling in California. Now I teach at several colleges, juggling my art practice along with raising two amazing children. After multiple shows and series of work, each deepening my practice and lending resonance, the pandemic has brought on a deep contemplative time, especially this summer.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I come from a fragmented family of very modest means, ongoing parental mental illness, disability and trauma. A Texan, I grew up with restrictive societal norms, a heteronormative one filled with hateful religious piety, save for a handful of relatives who were loving caring role models for me. As a cis-gendered white woman who teaches at the college level people assume I come from a certain level of affluence and prosperity but I do not. In creating a new different queer life for myself, I am hesitant and resistant to be associated with my own story. An opaque division interrupts my connection to it. For me, through connecting to processes of movement and perception, I have been able to be embodied in the present moment and continue to generate critical hope for the future: there are ways to move through the traumas and challenges that life presents.
My story is of fierce resilience. I am optimistic by nature, but it hasn’t been easy. My hesitance in the past to embrace that my work deals with trauma has itself been a handicap. Now following the brave route blazed by critical black queer theorists and practitioners, I want to claim my own space as a survivor and activate my voice more fully.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am proud of my tenacity. As a working single mother, I have continued to manage to not only grow my art practice, using teaching as adjunct faculty to support my family, building and managing a downstairs apartment to, supplementing my income while raising two wonderful humans. My work grows out of a complicated past that continues to echo to my present. I am driven to make my voice heard. Movement, perception, play, nature as resource, and making have been strategies that have kept me in the present moment allowing me to engage positively.
I resonate with the work of Resmaa Menakem Author of “My Grandmother’s Hands”, in that I feel everyone would benefit from doing personal embodiment practices to get in touch with their racial prejudice. To compliment that idea, I believe embodiment is needed in order not freeze and shrink from many current issues, traumas: social Justice, women’s equality/social conditioning, climate change. Finding ways to be ok in your own body so that we can be resilient in authentically addressing the overwhelming magnitude of issues in our current day world. Somehow, my own journey as an artist began as a child who loved making and nature; and who saw the most caring people engaged in daily rituals of care. I learned this lesson internally and have been unearthing the value of it ever since.
Bubbling liquids, moving light, studies of water, trees, and people help me ask: How are we embodied? In our ever more virtual and disconnected existences, my video sculptures, projection machines, and installations comment on the complexity of what it is to be in a body and to be pulled into virtual realms. Moving from the material to immaterial, creating dialogues guided by the forces of trauma, healing, spirituality, and ecology. I engage somatic connection – a relationship to the body in creation and exhibition – to respond to the complexity of power in relation to ecology and feminism. Employing tenents of embodiment to conjoin environmental concerns and social justice. I see technology as both a tool and interruptor.
During the pandemic, I invited strangers into my bedroom. This skipped the usual stages of Zoom decorum, opening up straight into the interior of my world. I have often shied away from the clarity of language, but I came to enjoy letting a provocateur part of me out. My video series, Bedroom Soliloquies, has come out of that time and marks many life transitions: vulnerable truths of trauma, patriarchal & heteronormative society, and the role mothers and women are expected to hold.
Soliloquies held in silence
Unleashing righteous rage
Torrents of tales
Shaking the ground
The seed cracking opens up through the dirt, manure, and time of nature.
I support truth, sincerity, and vulnerability. I claim the space I inhabit as sacred, whether virtual, live or prerecorded.
Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
The process of bringing people together to witness one another acts as the kernel of the project I want to realize, Sacred Social Media. I will ask the public to send in videos to share in the exhibit. From submitted footage, I will select a range of differing media to create a snapshot of life today: – people’s differing concerns, triumphs and challenges. Their videos will then be placed behind mason jars filled with water. Unlike social media where the image, video or gif is quickly digested and swiped away, here, the stories will have a special honoring. The jar itself is an icon of nostalgia: a symbol of domestic perservation, its physical presence creating more resonance of the memories presented. As visitors come to the exhibit, they will have the opportunity to leave videos to be uploaded into the video sculptures continuing to deepen their engagement in the exchange of virtual media into a physicalized, embodied presence. I am currently investigating venues to collaborate on realizing this project.
What is the role of sincerity in the realm of the profane? How can we create more opportunities for healing in many different modalities from art to social engagement? How can we listen more to what others are saying? Receive the silence beneath their presence and the space of the natural world.
- Images are all available as prints on Metal for $750.00ea
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://kimberleekm.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kimberleekm/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberleeKM
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimberleekm?lang=en
- Youtube: https://vimeo.com/kimberleekm
- Other: https://www.artfare.com/kimberlee-koym-murteira