Born on a pull-out couch in a free-standing kitchen in Arkansas, Lily Kuonen is anything but traditional. Kuonen seeks to defy the tradition of interdisciplinary correctness of creation with her work, exploring as many mediums as she can. “As an artist, when you have an idea, a concept, you have to see it through no matter what form it’s in,” she added. Kuonen graduated from SCAD with her MFA in painting and has spent the past eight years in the Southeast challenging artistic standards.
Kuonen’s work Want was recently added to the Judge Permanent Collection, a perfect fit in her eyes. “A cinderblock is foundational, strong when it’s with other cinderblocks: it represents stability,” she said. The beauty of Kuonen’s work, however, is in the breakdown of that foundation. “A cinderblock may be strong, but when you remove a part of the whole, it becomes delicate, fragile.” Focusing on the deconstruction of something so visually stable, she wants to challenge what is “acceptable” in an artistic environment. With her work, she hopes to “engage a sense of desire to touch and interact with my work, I want people to want to touch my art, I want them to engage with it in a way that isn’t predicated.”
Naturally, working with concrete presented problems, “It’s difficult to make,” she laughed, “I used an angle grinder and always ended up covered in concrete dust. I showered 15 times trying to make this piece.” She said her initial inclination to concrete was natural, “Whenever I’m in my studio, my work isn’t constricted to paint and canvas, but when I do paint, I put the canvases on cinderblocks. Whatever’s in my studio is fair game.”
Kuonen wants to create an entire typeface from cinderblocks. She’s currently writing grants to pursue this project, from there she can fill a gallery with tactile words and phrases. The idea came to her while she was looking at a digital clock, “Everything can be represented by that figure. Numbers, letters, I realized I could make any word or phrase from that basic shape.”
To see more of Kuonen’s work and learn more about her visit lilykuonen.com and stop by Judge Realty to view her piece and the rest of the Judge Permanent Collection at 347 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA.