What she does: Kia Neill is a multi-discipline artist known for her installations, sculptures and drawings created to look like natural artifacts and landscapes -- such as shells, coral, geodes, and caves -- with a hyper-fantasized twist, as if exploring some type of exotic, fictional environment.
"I saw the geodes as miniature dioramic landscapes," she says. "With a fantasy of what it looked liked after cracking it open...I imagined this amazing treasure trove on the inside."
She wants to take you into another world.
This year's Texas Biennial in Austin exhibited her first display case built in this vision: an L-shaped case with an open top set up with arrangements of works from the series "Coral Bed Remnants," "Mushroom Coral," "Oysters," and "Tree Coral" to mimic an underwater landscape.
Why she likes it: The experience of escape and fantasy in creating art, she says, and then in seeing the viewers interpretation of it. It's fun because in creation there are different levels of discovery and play that are going on, she says, from the initial process to the manipulation of materials, to the presentation and the viewer's reaction.
"I'm not an artist who sketches everything out..experimentation, discovery and play feeds my creativity, and in thinking about the experience of the viewers...it's rewarding to see that same enjoyment by them in exploring the work as in me making it."
What inspires her: Neill's imagination is sparked by nature and how people collect and display natural artifacts in homes and museums. Her creation thrives in exploration.
She looks to the natural landscapes she visits, to the bizarre, exotic specimens that she imagines may be within them, and merges this vision with the gaudy cultural representations of nature found in the consumer world of home decor.
"I like to experiment in combining different materials to develop new forms and textures that place you in a mystical, visceral, ephemeral moment," she says. "In processing and thinking of the world around you, and in critiquing various aspects of culture and nature... the process is important and I want the viewers to have that same process of discovery."
If not this, what? "Nothing," she says laughing. "I mean, I have culinary interests, maybe a geologist or a dancer...the nice thing about being an artist is that you can play around with anything. I have a lot of curiosities and interests, and as an artist, you have the freedom to explore them."
If not here, where? "I'm not sure, a major art city on the ocean with mountains," she says.
"Houston is one of the major art cities in the nation and a good fit," she says. "We'll just have to see where life takes me."
"I don't like to have things pre-planned...the fun is in the journey," she adds.
What's next? Working with smaller sculptures, paintings and models of specimens, Neill is focusing on the relationship between the two, experimenting with new modes of presentation, such as larger installations that look like a formal museum displays and building miniature eco-systems in terrariums and aquariums.
Her newest "drawings" are actually paintings, conveying a correlation between the drawings and the sculptures so that the imagery produced looks like microscopic leaves, x-rays of jellyfish amoebas and single cell organisms: diagrams of lifeforms that could have existed in the artifacts she makes.
Painting on a type of synthetic paper, she drops puddles of ink and pigment and uses a hair-dryer to blow them around until they dry, continuously overlapping these forms until they build to look like an organism.
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"People often want to hear some kind of sound that goes along with my work or see the actual life forms that exist in these spaces...but I'm not making puppets," she says, "It's the skeletal remains of once was...a big part is the viewer's imagination, what they bring to the work, and in that way they are participating in it."
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