We had the good fortune of connecting with Jillian Kogan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jillian, why did you pursue a creative career?
I came to be an artist serendipitously. I combined a lifelong passion for collecting small keepsakes, fabric swatches, and souvenirs with my love of flags and crafted a “flagart” assemblage to decorate a wall in my two-story apartment. Times staff writer David Keeps, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times about my building (the historic Four Gables building in West Hollywood) and spotlighted my artwork, noting, “Kogan lined a wall with a Jasper Johns-influenced state flag she made from scraps of cloth.” After the article came out, my life got pretty Cinderella story surreal and fast.
I received countless calls from private collectors, curators, and gallery reps asking about the flags. Within a few weeks I was mounting a group show at a local gallery, interior designer Betsy Burham selected my art for an article shot by photographer Roger Davies for House Beautiful magazine, and I was touted as an ‘LA artist to watch’ in LA Confidential magazine. I have been making flag assemblages ever since in a creative career that somewhat pursued me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My philosophy is simple –pledge your allegiance to a flag that well represents you and if you must, make one of your own.
By assembling a mixture of found objects and materiality with idiosyncratic messaging on a banner, I intricately transform society’s leftovers, found objects, and once cherished mementos into Jasper Johns-inspired flag art. I love to work with clients on commissions that personally reflect their lives, beliefs, and passions. I think we all have junk drawers or boxes filled with items that don’t really have a place to be displayed. The flags are built to incorporate these objects and give them a permanent home.
Being an artist comes with all of the same challenges that any entrepreneur or startup faces. You need to build an identity, a business, and a brand. You need space to work, creativity to flow, customers to invest in your work, and influencers to share it. You need to understand the industry that you are working in and the competition on a local, national, and global level. You must learn that not everyone will get what you do, can afford to support your dreams, or cares that you spent countless hours perfecting something or seeking the ideal object. I’ve learned to appreciate those who appreciate me and my work. This goes for collectors, gallerists, other artists, influencers, and even friends. And I have had moments when nothing creative drives me in my waking hours or in my dreams and I still need to get into the studio and produce.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Franklin Knight Lane, the progressive politician from California once said, “You are the makers of the flag and it is well that you glory in the making.” I actually wish that I had said it because it really sums up my work and why I do it. I want the world to know that I challenge the iconography of state and national flags in a variety of expressions and incorporate whimsical perspectives on society as well as sobering reflections on humanity. I do this because I want my work to reinterpret the symbolic richness of what had always been presented as a fixed symbol. And my brand is just getting warmed up. I’m in the process of creating an online store to sell a variety of flag lifestyle products crafted and inspired by my original assemblages
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Here is my list of Must Dos in Los Angeles:
Dining: K-Zo Sushi, Olivetta, Il Piccolino, Birdie G’s, Here’s Looking at You, Broken Spanish, The Little Door, and Farm Shop.
Drinks: Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, Chateau Marmont Hotel, Sunset Tower, Mandrake,, The Spare Room, Soho House, The Allbright, Culver Hotel, The Den, and the Upstairs at the Ace Hotel.
Shopping: The Wasteland, The Apartment by The Line, The Paperbag Princess, Olde Good Things, The Last Bookstore.
Adventure: Abandoned Zoo at Griffith Park, a hike at Runyon Canyon Park
Fun: Walk the Venice Canals, Studio Tours, iFly, Oue Skyspace, Universal Studios, LA professional team sports- Go Lakers! Go Dodgers! Go Kings! Go Clippers! Go Rams! Go Chargers! Go Galaxy! Go Sparks!
Culture: MOCA, LACMA, The Broad, Petersen Auto Museum, Natural History Museum, The Getty, Griffith Observatory, Bradbury Building, Barnsdall Art Park, Gallery hop on La Cienega
Beachy: The Strand Venice, Zuma, Santa Monica, Malibu
Hollywood: Hike to the Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Forever Cemetery for Screenings
Music: Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theater, The Mint.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As my career as an artist kicked off as a Cinderella story – I definitely have a number of godmothers and godfathers, organizations, institutions, and cohorts to thank for their support, dedication and encouragement.
Times Staff writer David Keeps and Times Staff photographer Richardo DeAratanha for beautifully capturing and endorsing my first piece of flag art and the Los Angeles Times for printing the story. In addition, I truly appreciate all of the terrific ink on paper and online from such media outlets as the LA Weekly, Angeleno, LA Confidential, Huffington Post, Artslant, LA Magazine, ArtNews, Pasadena Star News, The Jewish Journal, Flavorwire, Saatchi Art, House Beautiful and of course, Voyage LA. Appreciation to Ambrogi Castanier Gallery in Beverly Hills for mounting my largest solo exhibition ‘Golden State of Mind’. I also have countless friends and family to thank for showing up when I really needed them. My talented photographer brother, Joshua Kogan, for capturing incredible images for my website and products. My sisters proudly show off my work in their homes. And I am so thankful to my parents for their endless encouragement and many travels across the country to attend and celebrate my shows big and small. Big shout out to a tireless crew of volunteers who help me set up and teach ‘flagart workshops’ for kids around the city and at the incredible Hollywood Heart Camp. I will always hold Yosi Sergant and his Task Force team close to my heart for including me in such social impactful exhibitions as Manifest Equality, We Rise, and Into Action. And credit to Shepard Fairey for always encouraging others to participate and DJing the party. Enormous gratitude to Peter Mays at Los Angeles Art Association LAAA Gallery 825 for the opportunity to grow and develop as an artist. Jeffrey Deitch and the Museum of Contemporary Art for putting my work on the wall. The California Arts Council and Mary Beth Barber for granting me the funding and resources to create the ‘CALIFORNIA IMAGINATION’ project for CAC and sharing it with art lovers throughout the state including Governor Schwarzenegger. Respect and thanks to Carla Sanger, President & CEO at LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program for trusting me and my creative partner-in-crime, street artist Marcus Suarez, with a 260 square foot wall at new LAPD Metro Detention Center on which to create the ‘Do Time at LA’s Best’ mural with an incredible team including Ali Cherkis. The ceremony with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chief William J. Bratton, and several students participating in the program was a true highlight in my career. My work would never look as great without the incredible framing by the talented team at Castelli Framing. And bravo to Artist & Craftsman Supply, Graphaids Art Supply, and Koontz Hardware for always having what I need to build (not to mention keeping glue guns in stock because I destroy them regularly). I have been a lifelong collector and recycler of forgotten objects and discarded mementos and I appreciate all the people who cast off these items so that I could ultimately find them at such places as the Melrose Trading Post, the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Etsy, and eBay. Applause and standing ovations to Radiohead, Beck, Beastie Boys, Billie Holiday, Coldplay, David Bowie, Di Angelo, Daft Punk, Dr. Dre, Earth, Wind, and Fire, G. Love & Special Sauce, George Michael, Inxs, Jay Z, Kate Nash, Kesha, Lorde, Lou Doillon, Mick Jones, Mick Jagger, Mott the Hoople, Mseize, Billy Idol, Morrissey, Pharrell Williams, Phoenix, Rufus Wainwright, The Lemonheads, The Shacks, Soulkid #1, Sting, Wilco, 311, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Prince, Elvis and so many more for providing the music to the soundtracks of my countless studio sessions. I am grateful to my husband, son, and dog for allowing me to slip into my studio to work, build and create without too much interruption. And I truly thank all of my collectors from around the globe who made the incredible decision to live with a piece of my creativity on their walls.
images credits – Joshua Kogan, Jillian Kogan, Trina Hendry, Mary Beth Barber