The Cultivate Curatorial Board is excited to share the work of Megan Klco Kellner
Megan shares her work and process in our interview below.
Learn more about the Cultivate Featured artist series below.
Learn more about Megan on her:
Briefly describe your work or share your artist statement
I am interested in what it means to live consciously and to be present in my life. I paint the little things I experience in my home that make me tremble with awe, melancholy, joy, or bitter-sweetness. Painting is a way for me to grab hold of those moments and give solidity to my experience.
I love watercolor for its gentleness and immediacy. I love to work small. I paint myself and my kids. I am interested in quiet. I think ultimately, I am a person with a very busy, rattling brain, who is striving to find stillness and clarity in a world in which it feels increasingly difficult to do so. Painting is a kind of meditation that helps center and ground me where I am.
How do you go about beginning a new piece? Do you have it planned or is it more spontaneous?
I work both ways. Sometimes I start from one or two images and develop a painting with a plan in mind. Sometimes I paint directly from life. I’ve also started tearing up old paintings that I wasn’t happy with and collaging them with painted paper and other scraps I find around my house. That process is much more spontaneous. For me, it’s helpful to have all of the above. When one way of working starts to feel like ‘work,’ I can switch to something that has different constraints to open me back up again.
What is a barrier that you, as an artist, overcame?
I stopped making almost anything for three years after my kids were born. I was working full time, and it was just too damn hard. When I was able to squeeze in time to work, what I was painting didn’t feel important or relevant to me anymore. Every part of my life had changed. When I started painting again, I gave myself permission to make whatever felt right, even if it looked nothing like what I’d made before, even if I thought no one else would want to look at it.
Stepping away like that opened me up artistically. I learned that I can walk away from painting, and it will still be part of how I see and experience the world around me. Honestly, for many people I know, time and mental clarity are some of our most scarce resources. I think you’re overcoming something every time you can carve out quiet time to make something that’s just for you — even if, maybe especially if, it’s bad or pointless or doesn’t seem worth showing anybody. I think that act itself is both profoundly human and counter-cultural.
What is your go-to music when you're working on art?
I’m a podcast listener. My brain is happiest when it’s chewing on something. I’m interested in social science and spirituality, so I’m usually listening to something in that vein. For some reason listening to music when I’m painting makes me feel restless and self-doubtful. My brain needs to be a little bit distracted.
What do you strive for as an artist? What form of recognition is important for you?
If I’m thinking about external recognition when I’m working on something, it usually turns out terrible. Painting, teaching, and parenting are the three things that make me feel most alive, and I just want to do as much of them as possible. Building my CV is a form of self-preservation — it helps me keep doing the work that feels good and excites me. I'm striving to keep on doing it.
What advice would you share for artists? Share something that you have learned along the way.
Whatever you make, make it for you. Try not to worry too much about whether it's saleable or Instagrammable or who is going to exhibit it. Just keep working at it because you love it, and you'll keep getting better.
Don’t take rejection too seriously either. I’ve helped with a few jurying processes, and I can see how easily work gets knocked out just because it doesn’t fit the aesthetics of the venue, or a theme, or the tastes of individual jurors. I try to think of it as a numbers game — if I apply for 20 opportunities, maybe I’ll get lucky and get accepted for a handful. The others, I try hard to shrug off.
What is a work of art that is an inspiration to you?
I see work that’s inspiring to me daily. I teach foundations art courses, so my students are a big source of inspiration right now. Almost every class period, I see someone solving a problem in a way I hadn’t considered doing it. It expands my ideas about what’s possible in art to see 18 different ways of completing the same assignment happening at once. I can’t get stuck because I’m constantly forced to reconsider how I would do it. I love that. It’s making me better.
Who are three working artists that you love and would recommend?
I’ve been obsessed with Joy Labinjo’s paintings lately. She does things with space and color I didn’t know I was allowed to do. I forever love Lois Dodd (she still counts as ‘working’ at 95, I think). Molly Costello is an artist who’s new to me whose work I’ve been absorbing and absorbing.
Locally, there’ve been a few projects in recent years that have stopped me in my tracks. I love the honesty and simplicity of Sophia Ramirez Hernandez’s ongoing project Sophia Draws Every Day. Oaklee Theile’s massive installation for the My Dearest Friends Project had an impact on me. The Diatribe’s 49507 Project expanded my ideas around what it means for art to be collaborative and rooted in community.
That seems to be the common thread of the work I’m drawn to lately, even though my own work is so personal and isolated — I’m craving art that creates community and shows us what it means to see and honor one another’s full humanity.
I’m still working out what that means for me as an artist (and a human). I am introverted, and ‘being in community’ feels like an innate skill that’s been domesticated out of me. In a more individual way, though, maybe that’s what I want from showing my work: I want to show you who I am, what it’s like to live my quiet life, the people I love.
I want to see that from more and more people. I love art that helps us see each other’s faces.
A curated collection of emerging and mid-career artists. The featured artist program at Cultivate serves to share the artist's work and process with the community, inviting them to understand how and why an artist creates the work they do, to market and promote artists, and to connect artists to each other and to our network of curators, artists, and gallery owners.
These artists are curated together and represent the work that we exhibit at Cultivate. The artists are selected in January and June, and scheduled out for the six-month period. If you are interested in being one of Cultivate featured artists, please visit our open call for submissions.