Kris Schenkel: Chicago's Artist of the Month for September
For September, the curatorial committee selected fellow member, Kris Schenkel, to receive the honored spot of Artist of the Month. Having worked at Arts of Life since 2009, Kris has really hit his stride within the past few years. His style is much clearer and more defined, and he’s in the process of writing a few new songs with the band. I sat down with Kris this week to talk about artmaking and his sources of inspiration.
Catherine (CN): Tell us a little about your practice?
Kris (KKS): I transitioned from pencil and marker, to doing acrylic paint. I’m learning how to use a new surface, foam. It is something I’ve never done before. It is more of a soft surface, and it is the hardest to use. Canvas is much easier to work on.
CN: Where do you get your ideas from?
KKS: The Arts of Life inspires me to make art. Everyone here, I call them family. They give me ideas of what to do when I make art.
CN: That’s true, there are a lot of similarities between your work and other artists at Pod 1. Can you speak to that a little?
KKS: The artists that I work with also like scary stuff, like me. Bill is really into heavy metal stuff and skulls. Jean likes doing wolves, and other creepy animals that look like they’re coming off the page. The three of us have a similar style, but our own ways of doing it.
CN: So it sounds like animals are a theme in your work. One of your featured pieces has a lizard surrounded by plant life. What other animals do you like to put into your art?
KKS: I like fish a lot. My brother and I did a lot of fishing, catfish most of the time. I learned a lot about fish too. I like sea creatures, whales, sharks, jellyfish. I think they are unique. They have a special way of coping with other fish and plant life on the ocean floor. I’m curious about the things they eat. Lizards like to be around a lot of plant life. Lions also like to be around plant life, like trees and vines and stuff. I like those kinds of animals, not the soft fluffy ones. Those are the animals I like to go look at. I used to be very afraid about those kind of animals, but I had to find a way to turn that phobia around so I didn’t have to be so scared.
CN: Several other pieces have flowers in them. What stands out to you about flowers?
KKS: When I was growing up, I was surrounded by lots of wildflowers and gardens. That was important when I was coming up. I learned the different kinds of things you would find in open fields versus little tiny gardens like at the house. I looked at whether they were drooping over or standing up straight. I could see that it was full of life. The ones that were slumped over needed more sunlight to perk up.
CN: You’ve been working as a curator since January. What is that like? Has it changed your artmaking at all?
KKS: It hasn’t changed my practice. But I’ve learned about new techniques and styles, all different ways of making art. It just adds other tasks to do.
Being a curator keeps me focused and busy. I always feel excited when we get a good crowd at the openings. I take time to get to know about other artists’ techniques, what they do.
CN: What’s it like to be Artist of the Month?
KKS: It felt a little strange. I wasn’t expecting it. As long as I’ve been doing this, it has always been other people, so honestly it feels quite good. I’m proud to have my work featured this way. That one stands out to me most [points to artwork]. The flowers, I think it looks like it is swaying in the wind.
CN: Your fellow curatorial committee member, Tim, selected you. How do you feel about that?
KKS: I think Tim curated my work because my work is very different from his. Mine is more realistic, and his is abstract. I think he liked the designs that I put into my artwork. A lot of the pieces have bright colors too.
CN: Where do you want to go from here? If you could see your work on exhibition anywhere, where would it be?
KKS: I would have to say, I’d like to have my work in the Sears Tower, so that everyone who goes there can see it. I think my work would look good in businesses, like in people’s offices. Or, I could see it made directly on the walls and windows, it still wouldn’t be too huge though. If I did a big mural, I would want it to be in a school, so it could the kids could see it. They could know that I was a person who made art, and learn how to make their own work.
CN: Anything else you want to say? Any advice about being an artist?
KKS: You can enhance your drawing skills. It takes patience. I feel that by you looking at it, does it make you feel happy. That’s how I know I’m doing a good job, if I feel good about the time and patience I put into it. You have to be into your comfort zone and know that you can do it.