Posted December 12, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Artist Interview:
Zoe Kolln


By Issac Scott

This week, our cover features art by Zoe Kolln, an Evergreen student involved in the Evergreen Art Gallery, the Bike Shop, and the Tacoma Art Museum. This year, Kolln has spearheaded the campaign to save the Evergreen Art Gallery from closure due to budget cuts. I asked her about that art and her activism.

Tell me about the “Bicycle” and “Ballerina” pieces. I would say they stand alone as pieces, but the body of work is an ongoing series of partially or fully nude figures with rose blossoms for heads. It’s been a developing series since 2010. These two were made recently, last winter quarter at SPSCC. I’m pretty active in cycling and I also volunteer at the Evergreen Bike Shop, and those have been really central to my health and well being. It’s not a self-portrait or anything, but a lot of the series has to do with exploring my femininity, and my view on my personal femininity. In that time, cycling was really important to me in creating balance in my life, which led to the composition I chose. I tried to make it really balanced, as far as the central focus, and the feng shui of the piece.

What about the ballerina? I don’t do any dancing myself—I mean I do casual dancing like when I’m in a room alone and blasting music—but I don’t do anything I would consider serious dance. I mostly do visual art and don’t consider performing arts to be my forte, but I still find performing arts to be central to my inspiration. I really like to go see shows, particularly the stuff you can see on campus, like the dance collective and Generation Friends. All the performing arts here are really inspirational towards my work.

In this piece I wanted to portray dance and a really strong woman, and I wanted to convey the passion in the figure. Replacing the face with a rose creates expression purely from the body, instead of from the face. To me the woman in this piece looks really passionate and really into her work. There’s a lot of balance in the ballerina as well.

Right now on this series I’ve just been exploring my personal femininity and themes that were happening in my life. But it think in the future I really want to explore other people’s definitions of their own femininity and challenge what femininity means to everyone. I want to encompass everyone’s thoughts on that specifically, and draw more people I know in real life, people who I look up to and who inspire me.

Tell me about the Evergreen Art Gallery’s situation. The Evergreen Gallery in the library that’s been around since the college’s founding in 1967, is facing budget cuts. It’s been mainly due to the McCleary lawsuit against Washington state, and the state legislature has been cutting higher education funding in order to put more money into k-12 education. That’s taken a huge toll on Evergreen, especially the Evergreen gallery. The administration and provost basically took funding for the gallery off of the operating budget, and put it on a soft money account. That account is set to run out by the end of next year. So we’re trying to convince them to put us back on the operating budget, and to help us find alternative funding sources that are actually sustainable instead of just a grant or something. It’s a place that really needs sustainable funding. So far the petition has been in circulation for about two weeks and we have close to 250 signatures physically, and our online petition has close to 300 signatures. There are tons of amazing testimonials in the comments as well. So we’ve been generating a lot of support. We’ve been trying to raise awareness and get testimonials from the community about the importance of having spaces like that, and specifically about the importance of the Evergreen Gallery.

Where can you find the petition? You can find it at the Evergreen Gallery, room LIB2204 and also the Student Art Gallery in the CAB. Also, I have one on me today, do you want to sign it?

Yeah! Cool, awesome.

This will be in the interview, the part where I sign the petition. How did you get involved with the Evergreen Art Gallery? I’ve been attending all the artist lectures, and since the first artist lecture there were announcements from Ann Friedman, the curator, about the situation. As an art student, and this is my first year so I have three more years here, I don’t want to see that go away. So I felt the need as an art student to spearhead the campaign to save it. We had a meeting with faculty, staff, and some students—there’s basically only two students involved so far, me and Pamela Davis.

I know Evergreen has its permanent art collection, and it seems pretty extensive. Yeah, Diane Arbus photographs, Andy Warhol pieces—there’s some really incredible art in the permanent collection. It would be really sad to see that go. It’s central to my education to have spaces where we can see and engage with art. Ann Friedman does an incredible job as curator to create comprehensive shows that help to education you about the person’s work. Everything about that gallery is really incredible.

Is there a deadline that you are working toward with this? The soft money account where we get our funding is going to run out by the end of next December. That’s why we’ve tried to start getting the ball rolling with this petition this quarter, and we’re going to petition all through winter quarter. Then we’re going to set up meetings with administration folks who are involved in the budget, like Michael Zimmerman and Scott Coleman, an academic dean. We’re also planning on meeting with president Les Purce. He’s doesn’t directly make a lot of decisions with the budget but we think it’s important to address it to Les Purce because he’s pretty enthusiastic and I think he can also point us in the right direction. Right now we’re trying to create a comprehensive document on the importance of the gallery, and the influence that the Evergreen Gallery has on students, staff and faculty, and the greater community. We’re trying to compile a lot of documents right now and have a good case. There’s been a lot of strange questions that have come up, like “can’t we just have all our artwork online for people to see?” and stuff like that. So we’re trying to create a solid and straightforward argument.

That all sounds very well thought-out and organized. Yeah, well like the University of Washington—they have more stable funding than Evergreen does, and they’re not an alternative college—but they just recently hired a new curator for their gallery from the Frye Museum. So they’re putting so much money into their gallery at the same time that we’re potentially going to lose ours. And with our enrollment levels, we’re pretty low and that’s been a huge issue with our budget. For attraction and retention of students I think it’s really important to have a gallery. That’s come up a lot in the comments on the online petition, like family members of students saying like “hey, my student really cares about that, you can’t close that.”  And also plenty of alums have commented in support on the online petition.

UW’s Henry Art Gallery is so well funded and organized that they stand out in the Seattle art scene. They feature international artists who come and do installations and such. It seems like Evergreen should have the same, but we’re headed in the opposite direction. And we have shown world-renown international and local artists. Right now we have Deidi von Schaewen and she’s showing Sacred Trees of India, which has incredible video footage, and beautiful large-scale prints of trees all over India. I got to see her artist lecture and her career has been so amazing.