Kirsten Lee is a multimedia artist masquerading as a horse trainer and riding instructor. Her current explorations involve photography, acrylic painting, fiber arts (including knitting with steel) and mixed media assemblage aka junk piling.
Her heart for restoring and repurposing what others have “ruined” spills over into her art and life – rehabilitating renegade horses and cast-off cats.
When did you realize the importance of art in your life?
I have loved mark making ever since I could first put crayon to wallpaper, but the popular message seemed to be that only “magnificent” art mattered. But my great aunt was a retired artist. 5ish-year-old me had drawn a picture during a church sermon of an exuberant little girl in a snowstorm. That picture hung on Aunt Harriett’s refrigerator until she passed away at age 103. That became a metaphor for modern me that art needed to be made, it needed to be shared and appreciated, and it could be so very enduring.
How would you describe your art?
My art is hungry and urgent and awkward and questioning. I want to have done all this as a teenager! And yet I’m a grown-up with bills and businesses and souls I care deeply for. People talk of struggling to find their voice. I think of all of the beautiful expressions that are possible to be made. I hear my voice in my head all day long- I don’t need to hear more of it! I am seeking where my voice can go. Pushing its range. Learning how it can resonate with the truth I feel down to my roots, how it can harmonize with other songs, and other stories rising around it. And if the voice I struggle to master in the moment is a tenor, maybe in a year or so I can push it up to sing soprano, and in another few years, who knows?
What does your workspace look like?
It is purple and chaotic. It doubles as the mudroom/laundry room/sewing room for horse blankets damaged during storms. It is also the best place in the house to push your barely conscious face into a flood of sunlight while you are waiting for coffee to brew. Now that the litter of stray kittens has grown up and moved to their forever homes (loose definition, because it includes the one my husband desperately “needed” to keep LOL) I can once again keep it in enough readiness to take advantage of a little glimpses of time that open up to create. And that is the key.
Can you describe my process?
I don’t have a concrete go-to process. But I do realize two things that are pretty consistent. I generally have multiple pieces going at one time. I can flit from piece to piece using the same pallet or other raw materials, exploring different ideas without getting (too) attached. I also make sure I’m prepared outside the studio – phone always charged and with enough memory to capture images on the fly, something to draw with and something to draw on wherever I go. I will often either stumble across inspiration or get a notion out of the blue and like to catch it on paper to explore long after I would have otherwise forgotten.
What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
I hope they hear the message I’m trying to convey. That they glimpse an element of being they may not have considered before. And maybe that my work tells them something it has not yet revealed to me so the conversation can continue on.
What do you wish you knew that you now know about the creative process?
There is no right way. There are lots of ways, even new ways. There may even be a best way for that something you want to do has been done before. But exactly what you are doing now has never been done before. Revel in that and run with it and see where it takes you! We all want to be profound and create works of beauty, social change, and universal significance. And we might… But the path to them will be littered with the pastiche and “failures” that were necessary to work through in order to create the “masterpiece”. If I had known that 30 or so years ago, I would have a lot more “failures” in my wake… And be a whole lot further along the path.
What strategies do you use to help when you feel stuck?
All of them!!! And they all involve a change of focus. I have no problem just hanging out with a “problem” piece for a while, propping it up where it’s just part of life’s kerfuffle until we reach an understanding. Or banishing it to a dark corner and moving on to something else….
What’s one hurdle you’ve overcome?
Life! Well, not overcome but learned to live with. I run a thriving equestrian business which eagerly devours more time than any human being can muster. My husband and I have both have large chaotic families. But creation is worth not only giving time, but prime time. We also have been fighting some major health battles for the past several years. Even when I can wormhole in some time, there are times my body and brain just flat don’t work well enough to create. And I have learned that that’s OK and that I can still do simple things during the bad times to further my work. And if I can’t even do simple things, well, that has to be OK too. Another level of depth and timbre to that ever-developing voice….
What drew you to joining the circle?
They say experience is not the best teacher, other people’s experience is the best teacher! I knew you had street cred, that you had already been to the places and done the things I sought. You’ve built up a phenomenal community of incredibly talented and diverse artists. I knew through your free offerings the clarity of your teaching and the generosity of your spirit. You over deliver on your promises and are completely dedicated to your people. I wanted to buckle down and get serious about creating, whatever that might look like, and it was clear you were a great fit to help me in whatever direction that might lead.
What is the creative resource you cannot live without?
The easy answer is, the Internet! Art begins in the heart but proceeds in the mind. What used to take heavy lifting 20 or so years ago is now effortless. Well, relatively speaking! Remember what I said about other people’s experience? We are so blessed to have the experiences of the masters at our fingertips. What we do with them is up to us. No light responsibility!
Who/what inspires you?
What doesn’t?! There is such variety, depth, scope and nuance to all creation and interaction!
What does the word artist mean to you?
For a long time I thought an artist was the one who had it all together. Who understood all the secrets that the world keeps hidden from mere mortals. Who had the skills and incisive perception to show things as they truly are. Now I think an artist is a person along the path, deeply engaging with a world that speaks a million languages, and trying new languages to explore things as they may be.