Boise, Idaho, USA
Aunia Kahn is a renowned artist/photographer, author, curator, and speaker with global recognition. Originating from a tough background and ongoing battles with illnesses like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, MCAS and POTS, art became Kahn's therapeutic outlet and survival tool.
Kahn's creations combine human, animal, and symbolic elements, reflecting themes of mortality and rebirth. Her mediums span watercolor, ink, collage, and photography. Her pieces have been showcased in 300+ exhibitions across 10+ countries, including the San Diego Art Institute and IMOCA. Media features include Yahoo and Prevention Magazine.
Beyond art, Kahn has acted as a curator and gallerist for international projects and books. She also runs Rise Visible, a web development and digital marketing agency, and founded Create for Healing.
How and when did you start creating art?
Throughout my childhood, I was innately drawn to creativity, like many children who express themselves in unique ways. Yet, my artistic endeavors were often met with dismissal or, worse, mockery during school years. As time wore on, I became detached from my creative roots, veering towards what society deemed more “practical.” Dreams of being a therapist or surgeon took precedence, driven by my personal mission to alleviate pain, something I knew all too well due to a challenging upbringing.
In 2001, with aspirations in mind, I moved to St. Louis for work and education. Then the tragic events of 9/11 brought about a tumultuous shift in my life, exacerbating underlying health issues. Instead of empathy and understanding, the medical community hastily attributed my deteriorating health to mental conditions.
Constrained by my health, unable to venture outside and pursue regular work, I turned back to my first love: art. But now, even that posed challenges, as severe allergic reactions barred me from using traditional mediums. I sought solace in digital spaces, crafting photo collages and engaging in digital painting. My art became a therapeutic outlet, enabling me to grapple with both my challenging childhood memories and my ongoing medical struggles.
In 2004, a supportive friend named Roger, sensing the potential, urged me to exhibit my work. With his help, I made my gallery debut, and fittingly, it was a show titled “Voicing Within Surviving Through the Arts” – a sentiment that resonated deeply with my journey.
Creativity was more than just an outlet for me; it was a beacon of hope and a channel of healing. While physically isolated by my health, the virtual world kept me connected. The internet became my window to the world.
My health journey took a pivotal turn in 2018 when I was diagnosed with MCAS and later, in 2021, with Ehler Danlos Syndrome. These diagnoses, while overwhelming, provided clarity. With new treatments, I was gradually reintroduced to traditional art mediums in late 2020. Starting with watercolor, moving on to colored pencils, and eventually venturing into gouache and ink, it was beyond exciting. I know I have an art supply addiction. I am always discovering new things!
Now in 2023, I am finally feeling that I have gained control, concept and finally my hand and mind are able to command those new mediums to bring my visions to life. I am always learning, so I will never master anything. I am just thankful each day to be able to physically work on paper and touch these magical mediums that I had I had always wished for during 90% of my career.
I am also grateful to embrace the magic of art in a new way that has been my refuge, my voice, and my lifeline.
What media and genres do you work in?
From 2005-2020, I worked exclusively with digital mediums due to life- threatening medical issues. However, since 2020, I've explored a variety of mediums in my work. My primary love is watercolor, closely followed by colored pencil. Over the past year, I've successfully incorporated gouache without experiencing any adverse reactions, which has been exhilarating.
More recently, I've dabbled with ink and oil wax crayons. I have a yearning to work with oil paints, but they are too toxic, and their drying time doesn't suit my swift working pace. Hence, oil-based wax crayons have been a pleasant alternative.
Another medium I relish is creating jewelry that incorporates my artwork and photography. I've been snapping photos since my earliest years – my first camera was a child-friendly Kodak that used 110 film. The anticipation of waiting for photos to be developed was thrilling. However, I appreciate the immediacy of modern photography and the ability to tweak images on the spot due to real-time feedback.
Who or what are your influences?
I have been profoundly influenced by the desire to create and make sense of the world around me, especially during the numerous struggles over the past two decades. At times, I wish my childhood and health didn't influence me, but it's impossible to detach from that reality. Over the last 20 years, I nurtured the hope that one day I would heal and my health challenges would become a distant memory.
I recall once "vanity Googling" my name, searching for images online to see where they might have ended up. To my dismay, Google suggested "illness" after my name. That moment was deeply painful, intensifying my yearning to disassociate from that label. However, with my conclusive diagnosis in 2023 and the realization that there wouldn't be a complete recovery, I chose to embrace my EDS. I accepted that my illness would never be cured and that a magic solution for my health issues was unlikely.
Everyday life is intricate. Merely staying alive becomes an undertaking due to the complexities associated with mundane activities like eating or driving. Yet, I've come to terms with the fact that my illness undeniably informs my work. The pain and frequent misunderstandings fuel my determination to better the world and create beautiful, meaningful pieces.
What was your inspiration for
The Story of Overcoming?
There is a strength that can be found within vulnerability. At the center of creating this piece, is a woman, suspended by shimmering golden strings, resembling a marionette. Her fragility is evident but she also has a determined gaze. But what is behind that gaze? What is the story there?
My journey with Ehler Danlos Syndrome gave birth to the story. The golden strings that hold her symbolize more than the challenges and setbacks within my body and mind but symbolize what we all face in life. They represent the obstacles that seem to bind us, but in reality, they are the very things that make us resilient. These strings are our connections to our dreams and aspirations, the lifelines that keep us moving forward.
Each day there is a struggle to create mentally and physically and I saw the imagery of a renaissance-era castle rising on the horizon, weathered by time as a symbol of enduring strength and a safe haven as well. I strongly believe, for many of us that art has the ability to help us withstand hardships.
Describe your creative process?
My creative process is absolute chaos. I love organization and order, I do have mild OCD. I like to organize my clothes and books by color, my socks are folded into little squares and I could tell you where anything is in my house with very specific directions.
“Just look on the top shield, in the back right hand corner on top of the tape and you will find it there”
My art supplies are also very organized. However, while in the process it is an utter cyclone. I just get so into what I am doing that things fall on the floor, I start stacking palettes, paint tubes stacked on top of piles of colored pencils, my heat gun on top of that and small little rags scattered all over. It is absolute chaos. I love the process, and very much dislike the clean up.
What are you working on currently?
Currently, I have a solo show at Stranger Factory Gallery in NM, and I'm preparing artwork for several group shows scheduled for the end of this year. I'm also curating an exhibition in Portugal at the Curio Gallery and was recently invited to curate an exhibition at a fantastic gallery in my home state. The details aren't finalized, so I can't share much yet, but I'm thrilled.
I'm developing new courses for my community project, Create for Healing (createforhealing.com) which is now coming up on its 3 year anniversary. With my passion for video creation, I've started focusing on my YouTube channel, which I began 10 years ago but had abandoned for most of that time.
I'm enthusiastic about making courses, tutorials, reviews, and generally engaging in artistic activities. Thus, I've been producing multiple videos weekly and genuinely enjoy dedicating time to this endeavor.
Additionally, I'm collaborating with my partner on some new projects. Having recently relocated from Oregon to Boise, Idaho, I'm eagerly connecting with the local art community. Exploring a new state has been delightful, and I've had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible individuals!
What are your near/long term goals as an artist?
With my career firmly in my grasp and my art reaching a point where I feel more skilled (always learning) and deeply connected to my new mediums, I'm filled with a sense of ambition. I aspire to showcase my art in every state, perhaps even reaching the milestone of 1000 art shows in my lifetime.
In terms of tangible goals, I aim to improve in my craft daily. I'm passionate about helping others express themselves through art, regardless of whether they choose it as a career. Creativity is the lifeblood, yet many shy away from exploring it due to a fear of failure. Every piece of art holds value. Whether created by professional artists, hobbyists, or weekend painters, each is significant. Art and creativity unite us.
Where can people view/purchase your work (gallery, website, etc)?
The Story of Overcoming
The Sky Appears As A Velveteen Ghost
Strings of Resilience
Verdant Allegory of Fertility
What Happens In the Serpent's Shadows Are the Stories Unspoken
Calm Space With Life On The Horizon
All Images @ Aunia Kahn
All Rights Reserved
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