Earlier this year in May, athletic apparel company lululemon brought together 4 American creative artists from around the United States to New York to create a diverse collection of artwork for a special project called UnitedSTATE. UnitedSTATE is a project that celebrates the country’s uniqueness as individuals, and strength as a collaborative unit. Los Angeles based artist Allison Kunath was one of the artists selected to create pieces that reflected her own personal interpretation of UnitedSTATE.
We spoke to Kunath about the UnitedSTATE project, working with lululemon, and her experiences as an artist.
How did you get involved with lululemon & UnitedSTATE?
The experience with lululemon’s UnitedSTATE project in New York was in total really special. I’ve got a soft spot for sharing creative energy with interesting people. Centering our efforts around a familiar topic was the cherry on top. I spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of connectedness, and ways to share my thoughts on what I view as one of the most potent change agents available to humanity. I really enjoyed getting a clear window into the other artist’s brains and hearts to see how we all come at the idea from such different angles, but ultimately end up in the same place. It’s a pretty beautiful illustration of the UnitedSTATE concept, that aims to celebrate our uniqueness, all the while pointing us towards a center where our sameness brings us together. My greatest takeaway from the project came from my time drawing portraits in Union Square on our ‘work day’. I do blind contours (the style of drawing I chose for my portraits) of strangers all the time, so that was not uncommon. But I realized there is a huge difference in the experience of drawing people I’ve chosen, as opposed to people who’ve chosen me. They are always special shared moments, but there were a number of especially powerful sessions that I likely wouldn’t have had, if I had approached it as I usually do.
What’s your earliest memory of creating art?
My earliest memories of creating art all take place at the kitchen table in Ventura, CA – where I spent my early childhood. My mom was always giving me great opportunities to create, and explore new materials. Nothing fancy – but a little play dough, tempera paint, and rounded scissors go a long way in a house that encourages imagination.
What is your creative process like?
My process is most simply described as a visual meditations on my life. Most of my work is about connection – and comes from reflection on my relationships with others, and with myself. As I strive to understand myself better, I also work towards sharing my findings in clear and powerful ways. Sometimes the work is clean and representational – depicting bits I’ve gotten clear on. Sometimes the work is wild and organic, and actually assists me in uncovering bits of myself.
How has your style changed over the years?
My first job was as a graphic designer, and a lot of my work over the last 6 years has been heavily influenced by a clean, crisp aesthetic. In the last year or so, I’ve spent more time exploring work that is more loose, free, and abstract. When I first started painting full time, I was really focused on self love – an I think that manifest in work that was really clean, and got a lot of approval (love). I’ve since shifted my focus of my life to the pursuit of greater freedom which can be seen especially in my recent paintings on canvas.
What do you feel makes your work unique, and do you see a lot of your personality reflected in the finished product?
Since my work is mainly an effort to make my inner processes visible, I think it absolutely contains a great deal of my personality. Feedback that I often get about what ‘works’ with my art is the balance I strike between the structured and the organic. I often have abstract elements dancing with more formal, architectural pieces – and it seems to engage the brain in interesting ways.
What’s the most challenging thing about being an artist? The most rewarding?
Overcoming creative resistance is the most challenging part of my path as an artist. If you’ve read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (or have ever tried to begin anything that has a great deal of meaning to you) you understand. The most rewarding part is the feeling of aliveness I get when I am creating something that I feel really connected to.
How do you handle negative criticism?
Unfortunately – I don’t get a great deal of negative criticism. We live in a world where most people fear real honesty because it may result in offending someone. I absolutely welcome reflection like that, and instead of responding to it as hurtful, I view it as one of the most loving acts as it creates space to learn and move forward.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure where it first came from – but I think an emphasis on the process (as opposed to results) is one of the most important guides I return to. Getting too wrapped up in the future, what’s to come, and how the work will be received creates a state of anxiety that makes it hard to create freely. Focusing on the process, and making sure that each moment feels rewarding creates a much greater likelihood of feeling “successful” than any amount of results-oriented thinking.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I want to leave a legacy of curiosity, self discovery, and brave expression. The world I want to live in is full of people who understand themselves, prioritize self awareness, and feel free to share of themselves in powerful ways. If I can inspire a little bit more of that, I’m happy.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Don’t try to make good art. At every chance you’ve got, get weird. Remember that “good art” is developed by trying new things – not by trying to make something “good.”
To read our full interview with Allison Kunath, order Inspirer’s fall issue here!