The Hidden Past of Now: An Interview with Artist Melora Kuhn

Melora in studio

Standing inside Melora Kuhn’s studio, one steps into her upcoming installation.  An other room, something imaginary with painted walls displaying both the unnatural version of nature and interior settings of some mysterious historical place, a grand trompe l'oeil. Deeper than that, it is a space within a space and moves your thoughts to a mind inside a mind.

Her work confronts modern issues through a historical lense. In past work, Kuhn displays the idea of a known scene confronting the unknown. In paintings such as The Interior Chamber, she moves the viewer from a setting in an interior room to a place where the walls are filling the room with water. Or, as seen in The Wolf’s Cry, dogs and wolves battle in a Habsburgian wilderness. Her art provokes themes of class, race, and unspoken histories that can too often be lost in the fondness for a past time.

“I love to play off of reality,” says Kuhn. “I want to understand the thinking system and hidden elements within it.”

Kuhn’s upcoming installation for the Eigen + Art gallery in Leipzig is being finished inside her studio, a converted red barn from the late 1800s in Germantown. As a resident of the area for the last eight years, she has seen not just the small community of Germantown grow, but the Hudson Valley as a whole bioregion. This cycle of renewal and change mirrors her work, but Kuhn’s influences stretch beyond the valley.

Melora's Barn

“The quiet helps you to go deeper in the work,” explains Kuhn. “But those daily interactions [among artists] are missing. It makes you need to seek them out more.”

The as-yet-untitled installation will be shown this spring at the Eigen + Art in Leipzig. Her installation expands her previous work into a fully immersive piece, with painted walls, furniture, and interactive elements.

“I’ve always painted 19th century rooms. Now, I’m making one,” Kuhn explains.

Melorakuhn installation

The scale of her installation, incorporating a fully enclosed room, pushes her to new ways of creation. While she would always mix her oil paints the need for consistency lead Kuhn to developing her own color palette using Benjamin Moore house paint.

“I had to with more space,” Kuhn says. “It was to save time and make the colors consistent.”

painterspallet

As she is putting the final touches on her installation, her work takes on, literally, a new dimension. She moves from paintings of a room to art as a room. This natural evolution of her work goes on to establish what she most wants a viewer to take away from her work.

“To unravel it. To find out where we are now,” says Kuhn.

Melora Kuhn’s installation will be on display at the Eigen + Art Gallery in Leipzig from April 22nd through May 27th. For more information, visit their website.

Reported by William Crane, images by Dawn Breeze for Instar Lodge.

Melora Kuhn was one of the inaugural artists exhibiting in Time & Again in August 2016