Since the unveiling of The Tits Interview Series last week, I heard lots of positive murmurings from you folks, and I thank you for your support. So let’s just keep the ball rolling, shall we?
This week I submit for your enjoyment, multimedia artist Kim Guare.
MLWT: Introduce yourself: who are you and what do you do?
KG: I’m an artist, an organic, local food enthusiast/volunteer farmer, and a chicken lover, not eater. I live and work creatively at all times. And I pack groceries pretty well and honestly…I’m pretty proud of that.
MLWT: Why bother? (why do you do what you do?)
KG: I wouldn’t know what else to do with my time if I didn’t do this. It’s what I live to do. Art brings me joy and incredible opportunities. For example, I had the opportunity to be an artist-in-residence at the Wormfarm Institute in Reedsburg, Wisconsin were I worked on an organic vegetable farm 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and had the rest of the time to roam free and create. Art also brings me together with other creative minds and it has connected me with the majority of my friends. Art is how I get through the hard times and how I share the good times.
MLWT: Let’s talk process: what’s a day making art look like for Kim?
KG: It starts with me opening up my blinds and letting the sunshine in. My favorite time to make art is right when I wake up until I can’t take how hungry I am. I usually have some idea of what I want to make the night before. So I wake up pretty excited to make it happen. Lately, it more often then not starts with me grabbing my trusty little chicken stencil and some paper. I trace the chicken and then color her in depending on my mood and the quote I’ll have her say. Sometimes she is sassy (my favorite), other times she’s happy and inspired. Fortunately, she is sad less frequently as of late. I cut her out of the paper when I’m done. Then it’s time to instagram her and share her with the world…and my favorite part is picking fabric from my gigantic collection to place beneath her. When I have a decent collection of little chickens, I drop them off at Chicago coffee shops and storefronts, free for people to take. It’s been a way for me to practice creating just to create and letting go. Not needing to hold on to everything.
MLWT: What role does your work play in the queer community? (And how do you define “queer?”)
KG: Queer to me is digging deep to know who you really are and what you are really about. Not trying to fit into the mold of what society expects from you and not trying too hard to define what you are because we are always changing/evolving and growing. When I’ve given myself strict definitions it puts me in a box and leaves me no room to just be me. I don’t want to live my life with any expectations for myself…I just want to be.
My chickens often speak of loving yourself and accepting who you are and embracing it. It’s currently a journey I am on and it has been hard but my life feels so much richer. I wish to share that deep love for myself with others. Cause if we truly love ourselves then we can be more compassionate, loving and understanding towards all the people in the world. A person who does not love and accept themselves is a person who will find it easy to hate and we don’t need that in this world!
MLWT: What work do you most enjoy doing?
KG: More abstract work. I love when I just start grabbing things and putting them together based on how I’m feeling. It’s so strange (and magical) how much it makes sense to me.
But I also love making crazy, colorful, glitter covered, fabulous, silly creations too. I’m learning to embrace my funky side in my art. Because being serious all the time is a drag.
MLWT: You farm as well as create art: can you talk a little about the importance of farming to you and the specifics of how you practice it as a city-dweller. Can farm work be creative?
KG: Farm and art have a lot in common to me. Using your hands, taking a plan or idea and making it happen, taking in the beauty and creating something to share with others.
Organic farming is so important to me because food is special. It brings us together and nourishes us. We are so detached from knowing how our food got to our table and that’s really scary. I love knowing the awesome people who worked so damn hard to grow my veggies. It makes me appreciate my food even more and dammit, food and the people who grow it should be appreciated!
I usually spend my summers volunteering on organic vegetable farms or urban farms/gardens in Chicago. It’s therapeutic for me. I get this natural high from it that inspires me to make more art and fill my belly. It’s an awesome cycle.
MLWT: What advice would you give to urbanites who want to get more in touch with the natural world?
KG: Well, we do have a lot of cement here. But there are still a lot of beautiful plants and trees everywhere. I think we forget to pay attention to them because they are so few. It’s easier to notice nature when you’re bombarded by it. But when I take walks in Chicago I see cardinals, flowers, community gardens and trees. It’s about paying attention and not getting too absorbed in the crazy, fast-paced Chicago lifestyle.
As for gardening/farming…there are tons of places to volunteer. Farmers love volunteers, especially if you can take instructions well and don’t doubt your decisions. There are tons of urban agriculture projects popping up in Chicago who welcome volunteers. And I’ve often taken Metra to get to farms in the ‘burbs.
MLWT: Who’s your favorite contemporary artist?
KG: Molly Costello, Cathi Schwalbe, N. Masani Landfair and I don’t just say that because they are my friends. They just happen to be my friends because I think they are so talented and really saying something important through their work.
MLWT: Can you talk about an experience with art that has been profoundly moving for you? What work has shaped your work?
KG: Learning about Keith Haring’s work in 8th grade art class really changed how I viewed art and made me feel I could actually be an artist. Before I’d learned about Keith, I thought art was above me. His work was fun and simple. It was for kids and adults. And it got serious too with his work on AIDS awareness. He was just so real and he painted how he lived–bright, full, and funky. Also as a confused queer teen, it was great to see him drawing and loving penises all the damn time.
In 2012 it just so happened I was in New York City at the same time the Brooklyn Museum was having an exhibition of Keith Haring’s work from 1978-1982. I got to be in the presence of many of his large murals. I was overwhelmed with emotions and I definitely shed some tears.
MLWT: Can you tell us about how you came to be invested in animal rights?
I think being raised in a house with 13 animals at a time played a big role. At an early age I learned that animals are special just like me. They have feelings and different personalities. If you don’t pay attention to them, you won’t see it and they just all look and act the same. But I know they are all unique because I take the time to notice.
When I was a freshman in high school it hit me that I was sorta grown up and I could just decide to stop eating meat. So I did and so did my sister…and there was hell to pay but we made it through. Also, I was in love with Davey Havok from A.F.I. and he was vegan…so ya know.
Animals are so incredible. It’s so lovely how we can connect with them without speaking the same language. I just want to let them do their thing and not get in the way of it.
MLWT: What’s a dream project for you?
KG: I’ve made 3 pieces so far about the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables in the Midwest. With these pieces I’ve painted the fruit or vegetable on paper in all it’s many shapes and sizes accompanied by the months it is harvested. I’ve always wanted to have a space where I could fill the walls top to bottom with a ton of these pieces. I think it would be really important and eye opening for people to enter a room like that because we are very unaware of when certain veggies and fruits are actually available in the Midwest and at their best for eating.
Also, I really don’t care for the conventional gallery setting of 4 pieces on a huge wall 5 feet apart from one another trapped in a frame. It works for a lot of people but it’s just not what my art is about and I’d love a space that would let me fill the walls how I’d want to.
MLWT: Let’s talk medium: you work in textiles but have a degree in watercolor and your city chicken series seems to be in neither of those. What’s your favorite medium to work in, and what are its benefits and limitations?
KG: I use to go with watercolor artist, then mixed media artist, then installation artist, then fiber artist and now I’m just sticking with artist. Titles are the worst.
I think when it comes down to it, I love fabric the most, at least for now. I love the textures, the opaque colors, the way it naturally binds with thread. I use it like I use watercolor. It’s like I paint with fabric. It can be built up and layered. And touching it is part of the joy. Fabric has a story. I very rarely buy new fabric. I love donations from friends and the scrap bins at fabric stores. I have every color I could ever need and it brings me real joy to look at my pile of fabric each day. So many possibilities!
Limitations…its time consuming. I often want to have an idea and just make it with ease. With an abstract watercolor painting I could accomplish what I’m trying to portray in a day. But with fabric there is lots of messy thread involved, and cutting, and pinning before sewing, and bobbins running out, and being poked repeatedly from the needles and making huge mistakes that take forever to fix. But, I still like all that too in a way.
MLWT: Kim your chickens appear all over the city, can you talk about the intersection of art and community action?
KG: My favorite kind of conversation to have with another person is about feelings. So the chickens have been a way for me to share my joys, sadness, frustration, laughter with others and that makes me really happy. Some people have gotten in contact with me after finding a chicken and it’s great to be connected with another person through a mutual feeling. It’s so scary when we think we are alone in the world, the only one feeling sad. We are all struggling and enjoying life and it’s beautiful that we share that.
MLWT: Anything you’d like to add? (promo for an upcoming show, places we can find your art, shout-outs to homies, etc.)
KG: I currently have big chickens on display at Delicious (3827 North Lincoln Ave.), a vegetarian/vegan coffee shop in Lincoln Square in Chicago. I titled the show “Chicken Thoughts” and they will be up for the month of September.
Also! For the past three months I have had a monthly craft night at my place where people are invited to come over and create or just hang out with creative people. This month’s craft night will be on Tuesday, September 30th, from 5-9pm. Send me an email if you’re interested in joining at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MLWT: Thanks for your time, Kim!
If you’re an artist who would like to be featured on My Life Without Tits, please send an inquiry to mylifewithouttits [at] gmail [dot] com. Next week we return to regular scheduled blogging.
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli