Kimetha Vanderveen, a multi talented, up-and-coming artist who’s work has flourished in the exigent San Francisco art scene, has displayed her inimitable work in countless exhibits around the nation. She is slowly but surely taking San Francisco by storm in the form of miniature monotypes in a calming cerulean and grey colored palate—most recently, at the San Francisco Annual Emerge Show hosted by GenArt, which was named one of the ten best art events nationally last year by the San Francisco Chronicle. The extensive show featured the work of twenty-two hand picked emerging artists from the bay area, including Kimetha.
When viewing Kimetha’s art displayed at the Emerge show, I was instantly captivated by the uncomplicated, abstract style of her work. The pretty washes of grays and blues evoked a sense of calm and tranquility within the busy gallery setting. Her miniature monotypes, which were neatly hung on the white walls of the abandoned apartment building turned gallery, brought forth a multitude of images and visual metaphors—from the nature of a solid tree to the architecture of a bold, modern house. The soothing colors of grays and blues formed the scenic landscape of a tranquil beach at sunset and the metamorphosis of day to night. Her work seemed to subtly contradict itself by appearing uncomplicated and minimal at first glance with its miniature size and abstract gray and white brush strokes. But when searching deeper into the work and truly taking the time to contemplate it, the complexity of its objects and layers of meaning seemed to slowly reveal itself. From one viewing, I instantly wanted to know more about Kimetha and her art.
Just like Kimetha’s monotypes, her calm nature and soft-spoken voice put me instantly at ease. After viewing her monotypes, I was eager to find out from the artist herself what they represented. I also wanted to understand her creative process, and to gain a better comprehension of the daily struggles and triumphs of an up-and-coming female artist in such a challenging and competitive field.
Q: I saw your monotypes in San Francisco at the Emerge show hosted by GenArt. What do your monotypes represent to you?
A: My art has many layers of content embodied in them. I would like the viewer to have a contemplative experience. Certain bodies of my artwork are much more subtle in tones, but that doesn’t mean that there is not complexity. There are relationships in my monotypes that are visual or mechanical—the way objects relate to each other and natural light in the atmosphere. The monotypes consider how all things change over time and how they are objected to the conditions of their natural process. In my series of monotypes, I was contemplating architecture and the atmosphere. The larger question may be how we respond to the things that we see around us. We are affected by the environment around us and sometimes we project our moods, our understandings, and how we find reassurance in things that are familiar to us. Basically, I was focusing on how we find meaning in what’s around, what those things suggest to us, what they remind us of, and if they open doors to our imagination.
Q: What kind of venue do you like exhibiting in best?
A: I think that it really depends on the situation. I think in the past I have had more experience with small galleries and museums. I have shown in more places that were not-for-profits and institutions, but I think both environments can create a good experience for seeing the work. My work is fairly straightforward, but I can see where someone working in another medium, like film or music, may have very particular requirements that they thought about. For me, since my work tends to be more subtle— and often people want to say minimal—it needs to be in an environment that is visually quiet. Not a lot of distraction, a good source of light—those are some of the things I think about.
Q: Where do find inspiration?
A: It is helpful to see the work of other artists, and to know what other people are doing. Working with my peers has been an inspiration to me. I assume it is like being a writer, you hope that you are in a city near a library with wonderful collections. If you are a writer, it’s really helpful to be in a city with a good museums and resources to inspire you. For many artists, it’s usually living in a city with great museums.
Q: So, it is important for you to be in a city with lots of museums. Do you think that San Francisco is a creative city? Is it a good city for an artist?
A: Yes and no. I grew up in a suburb of Washington DC, so in some ways, I think I took for granted the wonderful museums there. I am sure that other cities, like New York, would have a lot of great resources. I would say that you realize after a while that you can’t necessarily compare different places. It’s good to be able to travel and see things, but I think that you learn to make peace with your surroundings. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking the time to see them. Even if you are in a city with hundreds of museums, it’s taking time and making an effort.
Q: Is there an artist that you were particularly inspired by?
A: Too many to count. I think there are always different aspects to finding inspiration in an artist’s work. Sometimes it’s a person’s objects of work that really speak to you and sometimes it’s knowing the context of their work or the biography of their story. That can be really inspiring because you can relate to the challenges they face. For others it’s just their ideas in general.
Q: When you are doing art, how do you start the piece and develop it? Do you make sketch first?
A: I think that as far as and the process of monotypes, I don’t have an image in mind. It’s very open ended.
Q: So you start doing it and let it flow?
A: Yes, I try to. I always hope that it will flow. I think that once you start the first few marks, then you respond to it and work with it.
Q: What do you do if your ideas start changing midway?
A: I guess my first thought would be to welcome that, maybe it means that you learned or figured out something. Maybe you are able to see it more clearly or differently, or maybe it’s an idea for a new group or body of work. That is the interesting part of creating. I also understand that if something is not working out, I have to learn to shape the work.
Q: Have you always focused on monotypes? Has your style changed?
A: I think my style has changed somewhat. I have been working with the monotypes for about five or six years. I was always interested in doing monotypes and I found a way that I could do it to—I didn’t have access to a print-making shop, so I happened to find a very small press that was similar enough to a large press. I discovered I could work on this scale and be able to create the work on this small scale on my own. I realized I really wanted to work small and it became very intriguing. Over time, it has changed because you get interested in different things. When you are in school, sometimes you are learning from your teachers so you are very influenced by that. I think that if you want to have your own voice it is often something that comes over time, when you become more confident in your choices.
Q: Then do you do other types of art as well?
A: I do drawings and paintings. I really think of the monotypes as small paintings, so I don’t make a big distinction between them and the paintings.
Q: In what sense are your paintings like your monotypes? Do they describe architecture, light, and objects like your monotypes?
A: Some of them do, but I have explored some different things over the years. For a while, I was making paintings that were almost monochrome and had to do more with creating a surface. It was like a record of touch essentially and the aspects of the painting were very subtle. They had to be lit precisely to see that it was painted with the contrast of where the light fell on the surface. That is one series of work I did. I think all of my work relates to painting and having a real engagement with the idea of painting as a language.
Q: To the naked eye, your monotypes appear in colors of gray and blue. What kind of colors do you enjoy working in? Do you like using a lot of color?
A: I do enjoy working with color. In the monotypes, it is a limited palate but there is a lot more color than you might think. The colors I lay out on the palate include white, yellow, red, a very dark blue, and sometimes gray. So there are subtle amounts of all that color in even the more limited range. It is hard for me to think of painting without that set of primary colors. The times that I do limit it to black and white would be with ink drawings or with charcoal or pencil.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an artist?
A: I think the chance to work in a studio and the dialogue about ideas between colleagues.
Q: So do you collaborate with artists a lot?
A: Yes, we show each other our work—that kind of exchange is very common. I think the chance to reflect on things is the most wonderful thing about working as an artist.
Q: What’s the most difficult part for you?
A: There are a lot of challenges. For some artists I would say the solitary nature of the work—if you require that for your process. It’s very challenging to find a way to balance that. That is just one of the things that is hard for me.
Q: What about being a woman in the art field— Do you find that difficult?
A: I think that it is very challenging. I think that artists face the same challenges in the same areas that all women do in their jobs and careers. Whether it is in academia or commercially, I think there are different demands for women.
Q: Do you think there are the same amount of opportunities for female artists as male artists?
A: That is hard to say. I am certainly conscious of each successive generation and how we are benefiting on all the work that has been done previously.
Q: Any advice for aspiring artists out there?
A: If you really care about doing it, you will find the solutions.
Art by Kimetha Vanderveen