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Imaginary Creatures of Vivid Color: A Conversation with Lindsay Kunhardt

Lindsay Kunhardt is a painter, illustrator, dragon fanatic, science nerd, lover of craft beer, and all around badass.  Relatively new to Chicago, she moved here on a whim from California and has quickly found roots here through her involvement with 4Art Inc, RAW Chicago, and other shows, both solo and collective.  Her body of work, which is largely listed under her pseudonym, Red Feathered Frock, is colorful and imaginative.  She uses bold colors and dramatic outlines to create playful creatures and figures.  Cross-collaboration between different genres of art is one of her greatest interests, and she hopes to explore that further in her future.

Lindsay Kunhardt. Kangasaur. Acrylic on Canvas. 32″ x 48″

Lydia Shepard (LS): Did you study art in school? 

Lindsay Kunhardt (LD): I went to the University of California at Santa Cruz.  I started as a Physics major, and then I switched to Art junior year.

LS: What sparked that switch?  

LD:  I guess it was part slacker, part inspiration.  I was already taking as many art classes as I could, but they only allow the majors to take certain classes.  I found myself wanting to take more and more art classes than physics classes.

Everything that I learned about the physical properties of paint came from working at Lenz Arts, which is a little, tiny art supply store in Santa Cruz.  We had to know everything about every medium.  I went through four years of art schooling without learning some of the things that I learned at Lenz, like why you can’t paint acrylic over oil, in detail.  I didn’t know how disappointed I should have been in my school until I worked for Lenz Arts.  I had wonderful teachers, but the technical knowledge was just not there.  I owe Lenz a lot.

LS:  It sounds like you have been interested in art since a young age.

LD: My entire life.  I was one of those AP art kids in high school.  But I was also an AP calculus kid, too.  Sometimes I regret not following through with the physics thing, but I guess art was just more my crowd.

LS: What brought you to Chicago?

LD: Throwing a dart on a map.  I knew that I didn’t want to go to New York, and I wanted to go to a bigger city, and San Francisco was both too expensive and too close to home.  So, I chose Chicago.

LS:  You threw a dart on a map and moved to Chicago, but you could have thrown another dart and moved somewhere else.  Yet, you’re still here. 

LD:  That’s true.  I was in a couple of art shows while I was still in Santa Cruz, but the art scene there is a joke.  Sorry, Santa Cruz, but the art students are the only hope for that town.  Then, I came here and I was immediately welcomed in by Robin Rios at 4Art.  Then I participated in the RAW show, which was awesome.  Then the Elgin collective show that I participated in was even better.  I guess I am still here because I have felt welcomed by everyone.  I also came here because I wanted to get to know winter again.

Lindsay Kunhardt. Crazy Bitch. Acrylic and collaged butcher paper on canvas. 22″ x 30″

LS:  You have a lot of crazy creatures and vivid colors in your paintings.  Where do you find your inspiration?

LD: Dany, my pet lizard.  I was that dragon nerd in elementary school.  I drew dragons all the time, and it just transformed from that into imaginary creatures.  They are the things that fill my notebooks; they are the little guys that I draw absentmindedly.  Sometimes I think that the things that you draw absentmindedly have the best content.  I love drawing women, and I love drawing monsters.  I don’t have any classical sense of color scheme, so I just use all of them.  I love watching the paint coming out of the tube; it’s just so satisfying.  I would much rather have a lot of color then no color.  I also love outlining things.  I don’t know why, maybe I am just obsessed with the silhouette of the figure.  That is what obsesses me.  Everyone has their obsessions.

LS:  You also do a lot of work with collage.  What brought that on?

LD:  I don’t know, I can’t remember.  I think that maybe it had something to do with frustration with painting and not being able to draw more precisely.  I really like mixing different elements; it makes it more interesting for me.

LS: You participated in the Bustes En Rose show at the Zhou B Art Center last November and made a corset.  What were your intentions for that piece?

LD: My original idea was to have a lot more soft things on it.  I was going to try to do the juxtaposition between your defense shell as a woman and the softness on the inside.  I think that I may have come off a little heavy in the defense.  It was really fun to make.  I had never done anything like that before.  I was totally out of my element the whole time.

LS: Do you think that you will continue to do more clothing design?

LD:  I think that the three-dimensional aspect of it was really fun.  I’ve done paper sculpture before, and I forgot how much fun it is to actually work with things instead of represent things.  So, it definitely might come back.  I don’t know about fashion, but as far as sculpture goes, definitely.

Lindsay Kunhard. Untitled, 2012.

LS:  Have you ever thought about doing a comic strip?

LD: There is one on my website.  I don’t know if my sense of humor is that universal.   I don’t know how to describe it; it’s a lot of anthropomorphizing things, and a lot of absurd things.  I try to put a sense of humor into everything that I paint.  People don’t always get it, but that’s okay.  I crack myself up, but I also know how dumb it is to crack yourself up.

LS:  I think there is something important in being able to crack yourself up, and not taking yourself too seriously.

LD:  I agree with that.  I am beginning to realize the importance of doing art for yourself instead of doing it for whomever you were doing it for before.  I would love to do a comic strip; I think that would be fun.  Thanks for the idea!

LS:  Where did the pseudonym “Red Feathered Frock” come from?

LD: It came out of nowhere.  It was a random “what should I call myself?” thing.  One of my former classmates once said that everyone should have a pseudonym, so I came up with one.  I’ve wanted to change it so many times, but I’m kind of stuck with it now.  In a way, it’s also a description of the type of woman that I admire.

LS: What are some of your influences?

LD: Coffee and alcohol.  Sometimes they are side by side, and sometimes they are not.  As far as what makes me do art; it is a need, not a want.

Lindsay Kunhardt. Hug, 2012. Made for Bustes en Rose at Zhou B Art Center, Chicago. Reclaimed fabric, acrylic paint, metal spikes.

LS: Can you tell me a little bit about some of the shows that you have participated in here in Chicago?

LD:  The first show that I participated in was the RAW show in May 2012, which was other-worldly.  It was so fun.  I prefer showing with other people; doing a solo show is exciting for me, but I think sometimes it’s boring for other people.  When you are showing with other people, you get to see first-hand what they’re are doing and ask them questions about their work.  I loved all of the different media at the RAW show.  I think that night there was a short film, a couple bands, dancing, and hula hoopers.  It was just so great!  That is kind of what I want to do in the future: cross-collaboration.

The next show I did was a solo show at the Martini Room in Elgin.  They had so much wall space that I got to hang everything that I had.  It was kind of fun to see all of my work in one venue like that, but it also made me realize that I have a limited body of work, and it made me want to expand.  Maybe that means finding more of a focus, choosing a road and going down that road instead of popping from one road to the next.  That is what I do all the time.

My most recent show was the Next Wave Art Salon, also in Elgin.  This was another collective show, and it was completely open; anyone could participate.  That made me a little nervous at first, but the quality of art at the show was mind blowing.  It was so cool to see.  It was literally like a Paris Salon; the art was floor to ceiling in this big warehouse.  That was another cross-collaborative show.  They even had this live installation where a bunch of people dressed up as zombies and crawled out of a hearse and started dancing to Thriller.  It was so awesome!  One of them bumped into me, and it was actually kind of scary.  That was the most fun show by far.  I think it happens every year, and there is a cash prize.  I didn’t win, but it’s okay because the people who did totally deserved it.

LS:  Do you have any shows coming up?

LD: I will possibly have a show at a gallery in Pilsen, but I don’t have dates for that yet.

Lindsay Kunhardt. Twisted. Pen, marker, collaged paper on illustration board 16″ x 20″

LS:  Do you have any ideas in the works or ultimate goals?

LD: Maybe that’s my problem.  As I was saying earlier, I would like to pick a focus or theme for my work and go with that for a while.  I am thinking about getting a teaching degree in Physics and/or Art.  My other big goal in life is to have a public space that is a bar, because I love craft beer so much; a studio, recording studio, performance and cross-collaboration show space.  That is my ultimate goal.  I want that to exist somewhere at some point, and I want to own it.   That is a very unattainable idea right now, but it will be attainable someday.

LS:  Cross-collaboration is a big thing for you?

LD:  Yes, it is.  I think that everyone in the arts should stick together!

LS:  Anything else that you would like to add?

LD: Good luck to everyone with an artists’ dream!  That’s what I want to say, because that is what I would want to hear.

All images featured curtesy of Lindsay Kunhardt.  To learn more about Lindsay Kunhardt and Red Feathered Frock, visit her website here. 

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