Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Introducing Marilyn Kuksht

The artist Marilyn Kuksht, in studio garb
AG - I've noticed that the native environment of an artist often leaves the strongest visual imprint. Where did you grow up and how do you see this primary environment affecting your work?

MK - I grew up in Spokane, Washington. I honestly don't see growing up here as any direct influence on my art. I tried more to escape than incorporate the basic middle class morays and lack of depth I felt in Spokane. But I must say, it seems to be growing up a little. You can actually find a bit of good food and art there now. Who'd have guessed?

AG - How did you first come to doing art? Was it ever a hobby or part-time passion before you went full-time?

MK - When I left the corporate world I needed something more tactile and direct in my life. I knew that money was really just a bunch of electronic data points put in this or that account somewhere, making one person rich and another person poor.  The intangibility of what we call money,  started to freak me out. So I took a complete leap of faith to make something beautiful for corporate environments and hoped I could sell it. I didn't think what I was doing was art. I started out to make moss gardens for corporate lobbies until I learned that moss just isn't an indoor sport. So moss gardens evolved into floral and plant displays, which evolved to encorporate glass and metal and all manner of strange stuff. That got bigger and bigger and required structural armatures which led me to welding, which led me to metal sculpture. I love it and I'm here to stay. Art was never a hobby. My upbringing was so far removed from the art world it's laughable.
One of Marilyn's sculptures in situ

AG - What other jobs have you done? 

MK - Well, I worked for Lockheed Missles and Space as a project specialist helping to build submarines. I was a technical writer,  a methods and procedures specialist, a project management consultant, and for an impressive title, I was a Senior Vice President at Bank of America managing a department of over 800 people. 

AG - When did you commit to doing art full-time?

MK - Oh gosh. Athough I didn't consider myself an "artist", I think I really committed to "creativity" about a year after I left my corporate livelihood. That's nearly 25 years ago. It was leap of faith to leave a steady paycheck, but I'll live longer and be happier because of it.

AG - Many people have described the move to being a full-time artist as a "leap of faith". How did this transition affect you?

MK - Interesting. I just used that phrase in answering an earlier question. Well, my mother said at the time, "Marilyn, you've always said you weren't materialistic. Now's going to be your chance to prove it." She was right. You have to be willing to take what comes and give up a lot of luxuries. The way I look at it is that I traded a six figure salary for a heart and soul. It was a good trade.

AG - Did your family support you in your artistic passion? How has the support, or lack thereof, affected your artistic direction?

MK - My family is small and sweet and simply doesn't really understand what I'm doing. I don't think they really comprehend how I've been able to make a living all these years doing "art". 'Matter of fact, I'm not sure I understand that myself!  

Marilyn on the job
AG - Describe a day in the life. What studio hours do you keep and how do you balance other demands in your life?

MK - I used to have typical days. I would go to the studio and make art. Now I start out by sitting at the computer and doing business, and then hopefully make it to the studio. I'm struggling with this. I think managing the business and promotion side of being a full time artist is taking almost 75% of my time and I get to actually "create" about 25% of my time. From talking to many other artists, I think this might be pretty typical.

AG - Art making is intrinsically a domain of much uncertainty. Therefore, artists tend to be adventurous people. Have you taken big risks in other areas of your life? Tell me a wild story about yourself!

MK - I confronted the head of Bank of America (ex-head ofthe World Bank) and refused to comply with what I considered an unethical request. I refused to let employee's email be searched without notifying them. That might not seem like much, but I thwarted one of the most powerful people in the world and I'm proud I stood up. Beyond that...well, I scuba dive and ride motorcycles for more physical challenges, but that's not so special any more.

Thinking back, when I was in third grade we were supposed to draw a picture of a turkey at Thanksgiving. My drawing of a turkey had been laughed at and I was so embarrassed that I went home and made a huge turkey out of crepe paper stuffed with newspaper, a paper towel tube for a neck and so forth. I put it my red wagon and took it to school. That was a big risk for a little kid, and maybe that's the real start of my being a sculptuor!

For more information about Marilyn, please visit her web site.

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