Interview with Kim Sandara, a queer Laotian/Vietnamese artist based in Northern Virginia. Join us tomorrow night from 6–8 p.m. for Being: An Evening with Kim Sandara. Participate in a collaborative drawing with the artist and check out recent paintings. Music and Lao food provided.
Can you tell us a little bit about your artwork?
I create paintings that translate music and sound into visuals. I’m also working on an autobiographical “coming out” graphic novel, Origins of Kin & Kang. On the side, I participate in art markets and make zines, earrings, trinkets, and stickers.
Where does your inspiration come from?
A lot of my painting practice draws from childhood nostalgia and moments where I watched my mom play around with her handwriting. I’m also inspired by playful doodling, calligraphy, and the idea of how we identify ourselves by our handwriting. I started creating this type of work when I came out, so that is also another inspiration. I like to explore the idea of suppression versus expression and being able to dip into a subconscious realm where not everything has to have a reason or coherent thought—it just exists within you.
When did you incorporate music into your artwork?
I discovered abstract painting in college. One day, my teacher asked the class to draw music for six hours. By the end of that class I was so taken by the practice of zoning into a subconscious state that I finished a 50-foot roll of paper. The drawing was very action-oriented and spontaneous, as if the sound was leading me and taking over. After that, I decided to explore working with music more.
What music do you listen to when you paint?
I listen to everything. I also make it a point to never reveal what I’m listening to because I don’t like the idea of a painting being seen in a certain way. I like to make paintings that interact with my own subconscious but that also question a viewer’s interpretation, what they might be hearing or seeing. The viewer’s interpretation is just as important as the artist’s intention.
What women artists inspire you?
I admire Ruth Asawa and Yayoi Kusama. I also look to Charline Von Heyl for compositional help. Linn Meyers is someone I looked up to from the moment I went to the Hirshhorn and saw her drawings. It was so inspirational to see something that was continuous and flowing.