Multidisciplinary designer and artist KARE is passionate about recognizing the influence of gender and the role it plays in every facet of our lives. As a female graffiti/street artist practicing what is traditionally a male-dominated art form, KARE’s pieces often contain neutral, almost serene looking faces – eyes closed, hair overflowing – and are unabashedly feminine in a sea of tags that rarely attempt represent her gender. Leading up to Blank Canvas’ opening exhibition this Thursday, KARE speaks about art as self-expression; how creating has allowed her let go of her attachments, and intersection of gender and architecture in the everyday spaces that shape our lives.
When did you first start creating? Growing up, what kind of artistic influences were you drawn to? How have those changed as you’ve gotten older, and in what capacity do you believe your influences affect your current work?
I started creating since I could pick up a crayon, pencil or whatever else I could mark a surface or page with. I was probably around 3 years old. As a child, I was extremely shy, to the point where my teachers actually thought I was deaf mute. Also, I didn’t have any siblings and my parents were always working so I just kept to myself and would just watch a lot of Art Attack and do crafts on my own. I even have memories of watching Bob Ross and being completely mesmerized by his landscapes. I remember making myself paper cookies with sprinkles, brown scribbled cookies (chocolate), and cookies with chocolate chips. I’d sculpt the brownies that I refused to eat (I was a weird kid) into random things like miniature cakes, flowers, spheres and other 3D shapes. At one point, I was obsessed with making cardboard furniture for a dollhouse my mom brought home from work.
Now that I’m older, I don’t think much has really changed. It’s funny—I’ve never really thought much about my early artistic influences but it’s amazing how I’m still kind of the same person…just over 20 years older. My interests are still the same, just more refined. I still love painting, drawing, sculpting, doing arts and crafts, and spatial/furniture design.
You were born in Norway – when did you move to Canada? Do you believe that your Norwegian origins have significantly affected your way of thinking or artistic influences in a way that is discernible in your art?
I was born in Norway but moved to Canada when I was only two years old. At first, I didn’t think Norway had any influence on my art but I guess it does when I think about how it influences my sense of home. There’s something about feeling like you don’t really belong, you know? I mean, I have great friends and family who help me feel home right here, but when they’re not around I’m constantly questioning what and where home really is; Is Norway home? Is Canada home? Is the Philippines home? Is it found externally, internally or a combination of both? The sense of home has been a big deal for me lately. Home, identity and art are kind of synonymous for me. I’m always searching for home and peace within…so I guess that’s why I paint my character anywhere I go. Maybe she gives me that sense of home I’ve been looking for for so long. Wherever I go, she goes…
What kind of arts education and/or experience do you have?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Interior Design and I currently work as a designer for a company where we do custom builds, runways, sets, design, etc. Visual art would pop into my life here and there but it was never a real focus of mine until maybe 4 years ago when I spent more time drawing in my sketchbook and painting again.
At what point did you decide to pursue a career as an artist? What made you feel that you were on the right path?
I’m currently a multidisciplinary designer but when I think about having a career as an artist, I’m still figuring out if that’s something I even want to pursue. Art has always been very personal and mainly for me. It’s a way to escape and express myself the way I know how. Art is just naturally a part of my life. Design, on the other hand, kind of counterbalances all that. It’s a career where I get to make a living by helping others.
Even though I’m not currently pursuing a serious career as an artist right now, I don’t think I’m on the right or wrong path. I’m simply on a path, which is an amazing journey where I’m experiencing life/death and constantly figuring things out as I go.
Do you believe that you’ve had to make any major sacrifices for your career as an artist?
When I try to maintain my 9-5 job as a designer and be an artist at the same time, I sacrifice my health. I’ve tried to do both at the same time a few times in the last year or two but that just left me exhausted. I had no energy left and it was really shitty. Let’s just say I’m going to hopefully make some new, positive changes in the near future.
KARE, THE ARTIST
The upcoming exhibition at Blank Canvas focuses on themes of character and identity – what have you learned about yourself in the process of creating?
Creating public art, I’ve learned to not get so attached. Nothing lasts forever. Egos are intense and there’s a lot of people who just need compassion and support out there. Women need to be stronger and need to support each other more. I’ve learned that being a bit ‘selfish’ at times and putting yourself is not a bad thing at all and in fact, should be your priority. I’ve also learned that your character or who you really are beyond the surface, is more important than the number of pieces or murals you’ve painted. If your art is impressive and amazing but you’re a shitty person, does any of it even matter?
In what ways is your art a reflection of the identity you have created for yourself?
My art is a reflection of who I am and who I’ve always been. In a way, my character is just a simplified, graphic version of me…just a lot more colourful.
How do you go about conceptualizing and producing each of your pieces?
In general, I don’t conceptualize or sketch. I just do what feels right in that moment, especially for larger, outdoor pieces. The only sketch I’ve done of my character was for the first wall I’ve ever painted. After that, I felt there was no need. Be present and go with the flow. See what happens. Work with what you’ve got. You know?
You’ve described yourself as having a significant interest in gender space architecture. For the uninitiated, would you be able to explain the basic tenets of this concept, as well as how you go about integrating it into your work?
I’m at the very beginning stages where I’m learning and just being more aware of how our society and the built world have formed gender roles and affected women, children and minorities. Like, why is there a ‘man cave’ or a special chair for the man of the house while women get left with rooms of service like the kitchen or laundry room? Why aren’t there more accessible and public breastfeeding spaces in the city? Why aren’t there more playgrounds? Why are there ‘poor doors’? Why are there so many tall, phallic skyscrapers? Would a female architect even think or care about creating the next biggest and taller building? It’s the subtle things like what I mentioned that spark my interest in gender space architecture. Our homes and cities we inhabit have shaped our lives way more than we think.
Who are some fellow artists based in Toronto whose work you admire?
What are you passionate about outside of your art – are there any causes you would like to lend your voice to?
Supporting women and people of minorities.
Supporting people who’ve been sexually assaulted.
Supporting people who are in or have been in an abusive relationship.
Supporting women in male dominant industries.
What’s next for you going forward, both in terms of your work and your individual personal growth?
In order to move forward, I just have to trust the universe and my gut, continue working on being a better version of myself, and enjoy the ride, basically.
KARE will be showing at Blank Canvas’ Opening Exhibition this Thursday, April 21st, 2016 (1544 Bloor St. W, Toronto.)