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Q&A: Photographer-Painter Kevin Todora


by Betsy Lewis 12 Mar 2009

In a crazy way you can link Kevin Todora’s fondness for David Lynch, and particularly Lynch’s cult TV show Twin Peaks, to the unexpected, giant and literal holes in his art work. It’s as if someone took a gargantuan hole puncher to a seemingly nice, decent photograph, and that photograph responds to its butchering by happily bleeding some brightly-hued paint. It’s […]

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In a crazy way you can link Kevin Todora’s fondness for David Lynch, and particularly Lynch’s cult TV show Twin Peaks, to the unexpected, giant and literal holes in his art work. It’s as if someone took a gargantuan hole puncher to a seemingly nice, decent photograph, and that photograph responds to its butchering by happily bleeding some brightly-hued paint. It’s creepy and fun at the same time.

He’s on the verge of completing an M.F.A. at Southern Methodist University and joins an impressive group of artists – including Nic Nicosia, Kelli Connell, Susan Kae Grant and Jeff Zilm – featured in CADD Art Lab’s latest exhibition, Flash: Photography from Dallas Galleries. Ahead of the show’s opening today, Todora discussed his work as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:

Art&Seek: Which came first, painting or photography? Or the printmaking?

Kevin Todora: Photography was something I had been doing since a child, but it wasn’t til I left high school and entered college that I started to take it seriously.  As an undergrad I explored all aspects of photography.  I tried to soak up everything like a sponge.

A&S: What does grad school give you as an artist that you can’t learn on your own?

K.T.: I can’t speak for everyone who decides to go, but for me it was an interest in examining my definition of photography. This got pretty convoluted and sometimes ridiculous, but school allowed me to push through issues and ideas faster than if I were working a 40-hour 9 to 5. It also provided access to a faculty that push, question and critique my work on a regular basis.  I don’t think I can completely sum up my experience in a couple of sentences, and I would also like to note that I am not out of the woods yet.

A&S: What was the impetus behind putting holes in the artwork? Are you adding new spaces or removing matter? (Feel free to call me out on the pretentiousness of that question.)

K.T.: The holes came from my interest in trying to deconstruct photography. To do this I found myself overexaggerating a half-tone process as a basis for stencils. The stencil kind of mimicked how print media produces a photograph. Over time the stencils thick with paint became more important to me than the things I was making with them. The hole carried over from that process. Now they act as a release of pressure within images I blow up and reproduce. It’s my attempt at freeing an image from whatever obligation it once had.

A&S: Do you know the outcome of each piece before starting it?

K.T.: Sometimes I have a general idea but feel if I were to set up a specific outcome I would ultimately get disappointed.  I like leaving things to chance.

A&S: People who once worked in bookstores know at least a little bit about every possible subject. In retrospect, do you feel that the time you spent working at a bookstore is a college substitute for the smart but lazy? Do you think it affected your approach to art and/or academics once you hit your thirties?

K.T.: Not to degrade bookstores, but the few I worked at never really expected me to know much of anything about what they peddled. Don’t get me wrong – I did enjoy the jobs – but I have to say the work that has most influenced my approach to art and academics would be when I was a wine steward.  That job demanded that I knew something and the research was enjoyable.

A&S: Who was your favorite character on Twin Peaks?

K.T.: Most of them.

A&S: Who killed Laura Palmer?

K.T.: BOB.

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