Get to Know Artist Kim Leutwyler
Kim Leutwyler (@carlosbob) is a visual artist based in Sydney, Australia. She works in a variety of media including painting, installation, ceramics, print media and drawing. Kim’s current work takes its form in paintings dealing with images of beauty, gender and Queer-identity. She has come to focus on painting as a medium because of its primarily masculine history in the western art canon. By entering into the modernist painting field Kim hopes to destabilize gender borders just as LGBTQ artists have been doing since the 70’s and earlier. Her artwork has been exhibited in multiple galleries throughout the United States and Australia.
Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello’s Social Media & Email Manager. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs, or baking cookies. Seriously. The best cookies.
Tell us a little about your background. What was your path to becoming an artist?
I grew up moving around the United States, never living anywhere for more than a few years consecutively. My love of art began while attending high school in a small town in Connecticut. I'd just transferred from a gigantic school in Phoenix and dove head first into every extracurricular that piqued my interest in order to make new acquaintances. Theatre, cheerleading (yup, eventually became captain), accounting club (uh huh), ceramics and drawing. I received a scholarship for Accounting at a University in North Carolina but decided just months before school started to change direction and pursue concurrent degrees in Art History and Fine Art in Arizona. Shortly after graduating I moved to Chicago to pursue a degree in Painting and Drawing at SAIC. My love of international travel has always kept me on the move, and I couldn't resist an opportunity to move to Australia. Shortly after moving to Sydney I was lucky enough to be a finalist in several reputable art prizes and my work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums around Eastern Australia.
You create in a variety of mediums, but you’re currently focusing on painting. Tell us a little about the impetus behind that shift.
Ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, and textiles have all moonlighted as my favourite medium. The main obstacle I faced after University was having very limited access to the giant kilns and presses required to create new work. When I found myself in search of a creative outlet I turned to painting because of its accessibility, yet primarily masculine history in the western art canon. I plan to continue to destabilize gender borders just as LGBT painters have been doing since the 70’s and earlier.
I love your focus on LGBTQ+ subject matter (especially your Queer Dinosaurs series, which is amazing). What kinds of messages or emotions do you want your work to evoke?
My work toys with the concepts of glorification, objectification, and modification, touching on the mutability of identity, gender, and beauty. I hope that my work will stimulate positive conversations about gender and equality in both the feminist and mainstream art worlds.
A portrait inherently objectifies its subject. The female body, in particular, has been portrayed in a multitude of societal, cultural, scientific and historical contexts that build a sense of glorification, and sometimes eroticism. The ‘ideal’ female anatomy has changed over time, with varying aesthetics that metamorphose based on age, race, geography and time period. For centuries humans have embraced body modification as a means of expression, rites of passage, religious beliefs and cultural aesthetics. Body art, plastic surgery, and piercings are not uncommon among the women you see in my work.
What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today? Specifically, can you share some thoughts on Ello?
I have been extremely frustrated by social media as of late, particularly because of the constant censorship I face on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. My work has been removed several times despite the fact that nudity in artwork adheres to their community guidelines. That is just one of many reasons that I love Ello. I don't have to worry about censorship or wether an algorithm will allow my artwork to be viewed by my followers.
I am both personally and professionally committed to the support of the arts and believe that every creator can grow and learn from being exposed to another artist's work. That's why I also created the @ElloArt profile to discover and share the many talented visual artists on Ello!
Has the move from America to Australia affected your work at all?
I think that the move affected my work drastically, although my subject matter remains largely the same. I paint women who inspire me, and moving to the other side of the globe means exposure to a whole new world of badass women. I also draw inspiration from patterns found in nature and am constantly exploring the boundary between realism and abstraction to highlight the layers and complexity of identity and place. Recently I've begun painting figures in landscapes that feature my favourite Sydney parks.
Where do you go for inspiration (other than Ello, obviously)?
Robert Rauschenberg is a major source of inspiration for me. I can't explain it, but his ‘Collection’ combine painting was the first artwork that made me stop in a very crowded museum and stare for 45 minutes. I visually consumed it from every angle and digested it into my brain. The only other artist whose work has stopped me dead in my tracks that way is Ben Quilty. I also really enjoy works by Cecily Brown, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Jenny Saville, Margherita Manzelli and Romaine Brooks. There’s also a giant list of Australian artists who inspire me and we’ve built a great little community of support for one another both online and in person!
Do you have a favorite piece?
My favourite piece is usually the one I'm working on otherwise I'll stop and ask myself why I'm painting it in the first place. If I don't love it I'll move on.
What’s next for you? Are there any new mediums you want to explore?
I'm passionate about painting but would like to get back into installation at some point. For the moment my limited time and space remain an obstacle. When I conquer those I'll be able to explore installation further.
What’s something about you that would surprise our readers?
I've had either a shaved head or soft-hawk for 15 years, and my arms and back are covered in tattoos of flowers from an illustrated late-medieval manuscript.
You can follow Kim on Ello, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.