We had the good fortune of connecting with Elena Karina Byrne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elena Karina, how does your business help the community?
Dynamism in the arts isn’t just about the individual artist’s reflection of the culture in which they live– it is about creating an ongoing dialogue between the arts, the artists, and the outside world. Despite art’s continued impact on advertising, social media & media arts, politics, and the interpersonal relationships within society and family, we still witness its monetized, cultural decline of support. Why? Perhaps because art reminds us of what it means to be human. There are books written about this, so all I can say to add to the conversation is that I feel it is my duty to inspire, share, and promote what other artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers are accomplishing.
Art is an exciting problem-solving adventure. Life is a problem-solving adventure. Why else do we return to the same stories, again and again? Why do we return to the imagination’s best examples of our intellectual, emotional, and psychological progress and/or failure? I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some of the most inspiring national and international educational institutions, museums, and literary venues. Communities mirror how we feel about the planet, so whatever we can do to contribute to its health and capacity for change, I’m for it. Emily Dickinson always rings in my ear when she wrote, “genius is the ignition of affection, not intellect.” A compassionate intellect not only leads to empathic seeing, but it also instigates the necessary risk an artist needs to make herself vulnerable and hungry to learn.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Since I was a teenager, I have been writing poetry and essays. During the past year, at age 60, I decided to go back to school, to challenge myself. Even when you find success, you need to challenge yourself to do more, see more, to improve. So, I am enrolled in AUSB’s MFA program in Writing & Contemporary Media studying film and screenwriting…this includes a new love for writing fiction! Who knows what will happen next! I hope it makes me a better writer and a better person. All the genres have a way of overlapping, feeding into the other, creating a chorus of ideas. That’s exciting. Continually, I learn from other artists, scientists, entrepreneurs. I will also learn from my failures. My artist/professor father, Herbert S. Jepson said, “You can tell how good an artist is by the number of failures he has in his studio.”
Our American culture promotes quick success, winning the lottery, easy genius…all this makes most people feel bad, left out, not good enough… all creative endeavors require hard work. There will be milestones and watershed moments yet, along the way, you have to expect disappointments. That’s why I decided to send out work for publication was akin to paying a bill: You have to do it continually. It goes out and it comes back, and eventually, things begin to happen. It has a slow, accumulative effect. Sometimes, prizes come to you in a burst: ahh, a breath. But the next day means more work and more discovery. That’s what I call our perfect oxymoron: painful joy. If we are lucky, we’ll be doing it till we die. I’m completing some stories, a book of essays, and releasing my fourth book this year. Now, I’m onto the next project that I can argue with, fall in love with. I’m hooked.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Los Angeles functions more like a state than a city; this means we are a truly diverse, thriving cultural center. I adore the museums: LACMA, Craft Contemporary Museum, MOCA, California African American Museum, The Broad, The Skirball Center, The Huntington Library & Gardens, Japanese American Museum, Museum of Tolerance, and on and on. We have so many unusual sights, venues, galleries, it would take some time to see it all. Something for everyone, whether it’s the whimsical The Museum of Jurassic Technology and Museum of Illusions or the maverick, community-supported Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, we have it.
I’m a foodie-sometimes chef, delighted with what California has to offer. Taking a road trip from LA to Inverness CA, for example, heaven.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I decided to be a poet at the age of fourteen. However, it was my first Sarah Lawrence College poetry professor, Thomas Lux, who changed what that meant. Hands-down, he was the best professor. I am grateful for the forty years of supportive friendship. He died in February 2017. These lines from his poem “An Horatian Notion” can apply to any professional choice we make:
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth’s core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.
Of course, my gratitude extends to my children, my dearest friends, and numerous writers who ignite my life daily. In calm waters or stormy seas, the stunning poet Cathy Colman has been my extra eyes and ears since 1992.
Twitter: Elena Karina Byrne@ekduende
Photo #2 Mark Savage