We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberlee Koym-Murteira and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimberlee, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Walking through a forest, by the sea side, up a grassy hill, the physical act of moving brings me joy not just for the beauty of the surroundings, but for the alteration and enlivening of my thoughts as I become active. Bubbling liquids, moving light, studies of water, trees, and people, help me ask: How are we embodied? I wonder how do we activate our lives and how can we be more present in our physical world in order to be more connected with ourselves and others? Studies show physical activity positively affects brain cognition, but it still seems an issue for so many. Some of my favorite activities are drawing, walking, and cooking. I create videos to capture the process and the power of movement and connection. I bottle it up for study. I house my Video Sculptures in mason jars containing water. I use water as a lens like a kid with a magnifying glass, pulling things – in this case transparent layers of video imagery- apart to observe. I choose to work with liquids – for their transparency and because they’re too slippery for me to fully control. The glass mason jars preserve precious memories, life’s seminal moments, and challenges to be used when someone needs to call on them -my grandmother cooking, inspirations from Maya Angelou, remnants from the wildfires. I play with veils of transparency to speak to the act of perception and sight(vision), the ability to see in, to discover. The physical and virtual intersections, matter and media, hold somatic resonance. Virtual refers to media but also thought, imagination, perception, psyche, and spirit. In our ever more virtual and disconnected existences, my video sculptures, projection machines, installations and prints on metal comment on the complexity of what is to be in a body, and to be pulled into virtual realms. “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.” — Carl Jung. I love art & art making: In my art practice, as in my home, I love to mix high and low tech, I achieve this meeting of virtual and physical with something like a video playing behind a mason jar filled with water. The placement of the image behind water acts as a lens, creating a hologram effect. As you walk around the sculpture the three dimensionality of the bottle, water, and image lends an additional sense of movement and wonder to the video sculpture. I am now exploring disorienting imagery by using a 360 camera to simultaneously give a sense of enclosure and expansion. This filming technique also creates a disembodied sense of floating. During the pandemic the wildness of nature has been a vital connection.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a maker of bubbling life cycles, a mad tinkerer of wonder and electricity, an avid admirer of natural phenomena, a consumer of unwanted toxicities, an architect of interactive apparatuses. For many years, I worked as a set designer in theatre and the film industry furthering my interest in moving figures and an artistic approach to space, light, and color. Collaborating and creating environments for theatre for playwrights Daniel Alexander Jones & Shay Youngblood was a distinct highlight. Although I found the roles in the film industry creatively challenging, there was not sufficient opportunity to express and integrate my own voice into these design projects. I worked on my own collages and paintings at home, but felt muffled in supporting other people’s visions at work. Taking a video camera in my own hand, I transitioned into creating time-based work in full-scale installation. I wanted viewers to explore space as a play that unfolds over time and I wanted to physically involve viewers and engage their curiosity interactively. After leaving the film industry I studied abroad in a special program through Central St Martins, London that took me to Holland, Finland and the Czech Republic. Earning my MA in Scenography – an European form of theatre design that blurs distinctions between fine arts and theatre centering the focus to creating encounters between audience and artist. That is where I began working in video installation focused on playing with natural phenomena (light & water) combined with image, sound, and movement. Plays with translucency and luminosity are a constant but over the last 20 years I have gone through various differing iterations and approaches to form, scale, material and interactivity. Projecting Fire through Water: Response to the California WildFires Still from Video 2018 Projecting Fire through Water:(title for image) I created a series of video sculptures, housed in mason jars and still prints from videos I edited of footage from the fires. My work was brought together with works from other artists at the Museums of Sonoma for the show, “From the Fire, A Community Reflects & Rebuilds” in the Fall of 2018. The Museum acted as a gathering place for processing the tragedies of the fires. I call my work in the series “Projecting Fire through Water”, as I have used a hands on process of remaking by projecting footage of the fires through water. These acts allowed me to process the fires in a new way, creating an easier way to be with the remnants and destruction of the natural disasters we continue to witness. The videos were shown as projections and as video sculptures housed in Mason jars, holding stories and images to preserve them, marking connections between the virtual and physical. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. In 2017, my urge to mark those pathways between the environment and people focused on natural disasters – as Hurricane Harvey flooded homes of so many in my home state. These tragedies began to stir a new appreciation of the home left behind. For the first time, I felt a deep pull to return to Texas and collect stories of the current events and of the childhood places in nature I had loved to visit. Logistics did not allow me to travel at the time so I virtually transported to Texas via the internet. While watching the stories of the destruction, I was surprised to remember a love of the intense Texas rain and thunderstorms. Mere days later, Texas evaporated into the background as the 2017 fires of Northern California consumed Bay Area residents thoughts. The overwhelming destruction and sadness moved me deeply and I began collecting stories and footage from the fire. These pieces mark connections between the virtual and physical; connections and pathways, fire and water colliding in the same conduit, expressing the complexity of life – destruction, beauty, anxiety, and love. Projecting Fire through Water: Response to the California WildFires Still Print from Video 2018 (title for image) Vanishing Sanctuary:(title for next image) I have been using a 360 camera to capture scenes in Texas on recent visits home. This winter I filmed on my families’ ranch. The land is being overtaken by a quarry. As a child I spent every summer and most other holidays on this land, it is a sanctuary for me, a place where I marked and began my artistic processes of working with my hands and my connection with the environment. As my dear Aunt and Uncle age and prepare to leave this world, it pains me to see the land that is a part of them, is being disrupted. A quarry is overtaking the land, excavating it into an unrecognizable terrain more like the moon than the place of my childhood. The clang and clamor of machines interrupt the quiet of the pasture. It’s hard to say what was more potent- the land/environment, the care from my relatives, or if it was the act of making and moving in nature. What I know is that being there, moving through nature, using my hands to make began a healing process that has shaped my life. I have a few projects that I am beginning to work on. One is called Sacred Social Media, the next is an academic course I want to teach called The Virtual Real: Making in a Disembodied Time. Sacred Social Media: I began making mason jar video sculptures by housing footage of my grandmother cooking Christmas Dinner inside of one small glass jar filled with water. Carefully storing my virtual grandmother on my shelf so that I could call on her jar anytime I needed to have a dose of warmth and love. From there I filmed Maya Angelou and others as tributes, inspirations, and remembrances. During the Fires of 2017, I captured memories people had lost in the fire with the intention of creating a space where people could come together and process the shocking event – sharing memories, stories, and grief. That process of bringing people together to witness one another acts as the kernel of the project I want to realize, Sacred Social Media. I will ask the outside public to send in videos to share in the exhibit. From the submitted footage I would select a range of differing media to create a snapshot of life today – people’s many differing concerns, triumphs and challenges. Their video will then be placed behind mason jars filled with water. Unlike social media where the image, video, gif is quickly digested and swiped away, here, the media will have a special honoring. The jar itself is an icon of nostalgia, its physical presence creating more resonance of the memories presented. As visitors come to the exhibit they will have the opportunity to leave videos to be uploaded into the video sculptures continuing to deepen and engage the exchange of virtual media into a physicalized, embodied presence. I am looking for venues to collaborate on realizing this project. The Virtual Real: Making in an Disembodied Time The objective of this academic class is to contextualize and critically consider the various modalities of being in bodies – what does somatic work mean when so much of art making, being, learning happens in a virtual real? Somatic Practice employs movement to integrate sensation, reflection and awareness; bringing the present to historical enculturation, narrative, power and fragility that are uniquely stored in individual bodies. Our class flows from body practice to art process. The course encourages students to develop new connections to understand art making from a different perspective, an invitation to find resonance in authentic voice. During a time of dissociation, the class offers somatic connection. Employs isolation as an opportunity to connect deeper to self. Students create independent and collaborative projects, outcomes include emerging media, installation and performance. When galleries and museums open up again, I am looking forward to again having a chance to mount installations. In the meanwhile I am concentrating on developing new work and selling prints on metal and video sculptures online at artfare.com. I am teaching new media at California College of the Arts & Diablo Valley College and most recently began at Cal State East Bay. As I teach, dance and talk online through little zoom boxes, I observe the imagery of containment and contemplate isolated figures during the time of Covid19. I look forward to transforming this media limiting interaction into a record of resilience.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Local hikes are my go to. While visitors to LA often come for the bling, I like to situate folks first with a hike where they get to see the city from nature. I love how nature weaves throughout Los Angeles. A favorite neighborhood walk in Echo park meanders through old secret staircases to near Dodgers Stadium. As an art lover there are many Galleries in Downtown I enjoy as well as Museums like MOCA, MOCA Geffen & The Broad. I always enjoy taking people to see shows at the gallery Hauser & Wirth and to follow up with lunch at Manuela’s. I used to love to take guests to sit in the garden at Paru’s South Indian Cuisine on Sunset Hollywood. I’d like to send a shout out to Paru who decided after 40 years to sell his business in March and generously shared half his profits with his long time staff. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives and I like to give my guest cuisine options. Pine and Crane hits the spot for Taiwanese, Night and Market Song for Thai- Yum! As I’m originally from Texas tacos are also a must, Salazar makes a great fish over the fire with tortillas and breakfast tacos from Homestate Tacos also reminds me of home mixed with LA. The next day, we would head out to El Matador beach, before leaving we could pick up take out from someplace like Triple Beam Pizza, Roosblu, Yunomi handrolls, or Bavel! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have always known what my grandparents and Aunt & Uncle gave to me was magic. In gardening, sewing projects, tending goats, riding horses I connected with family, nature, and myself. For years since I have tried to decipher how those simple tasks – acts of making and bonding- redirected and shaped my life. Building on this influence, processes of transformation are the beginning place of my artistic investigations. I transform plastic bags into prisms, plastic water bottles filled with moving water become an altar. I film people transforming their lives through everyday rituals they perform around the house; cooking, cleaning, walking, hiking, swimming, swinging. I work to unlock this mysterious process of activation, connection and love. For me, the pandemic has heightened this dialogue between the body, activity, connection and virtual media. With my online 5 Rhythms dance community and art making, I am still engaged with movement even when stuck at home. I am inspired by supportive friends and the humor and warmth of my children. My art making and artist community in LA is organized by Kristine Schomaker of Shoebox PR. I have done seven rounds of Collaboration at a distance since it began in March and am now participating in the peer mentorship program. Kristine has generously organized these free outreaches that have been a lifeline of artistic contact for me. Interestingly enough, I also have to thank some people in my life who have created great challenges for me. The last year has been full of turmoil and while not welcome it has solidified my priorities, determination for doing things differently and commitment to myself and my artwork.
Youtube: kimberlee koym
Other: Vimeo https://vimeo.com/kimberleekm My art work is for sale @ https://www.artfare.com/kimberleekm LinkTree https://linktr.ee/kimberleekm
All photos by Kimberlee Koym-Murteira