From sculptors to photographers, the Wriston Art Center’s chaotic underbelly has produced quite a number of successful, well-respected artists in recent years. Among them is Kristin Boehm, a psychology and studio art major who graduated in 2009. Now working as a visual designer and “moonlighting” fiber artist, Boehm has found a niche in the art world in spite of the sizeable challenges facing young artists today. She spoke with a number of students on Monday, Feb. 28 at Wriston about her road to success and the different hurtles she crossed along the way.
Boehm’s achievement is somewhat ironic. Her artwork is concerned with humanizing what she calls “our technological landscape,” yet she owes much of her success to very modern amenities, namely the Internet. She initially gained recognition through a blog she started, which displayed her recent work.
Boehm then started a page on the online art store Etsy, selling various handmade crafts aimed at allowing people to interact with their technology through what she calls “a handmade lens.” She wants those who interact with her arts and crafts to “focus on the underlying human presence involved with technological advancement.” Thus, she handknits commissioned cases for iPods, cameras and other handheld electronics. With these more consumer-based projects, Boehm said she is attempting to “balance the intersections between… art, craft… and the gallery and public spheres.”
Boehm has also created a number of public art installations, some of which were displayed here at Lawrence. For example, she knitted a number of pieces that were installed on traffic signs and traffic cones, “tattooing [them] with subtle reminders of our humanity.”
Such projects not only marked her evolution as an artist but also helped to further her name in the artistic community. After graduation, her blog evolved into spinhandspun.com, a website dedicated to fiber art and artists. Boehm sells her work through the website and connects with other artists. She’s also a member of the Akasha Collective, an online artist’s collective that helps young artists promote and sell their work. One has to wonder if all of this online networking and promotion is in some sense contributing to the “compartmentalization” of our day-today interactions that Boehm is so concerned with alleviating.
Yet, one only has to look to the first sentence of her artist statement to find that she is very aware of the problematic nature of her situation. She writes, “the relationship between technology and humanity has always been symbiotic, as neither can advance without the other.” Boehm isn’t naïve; she uses the Internet and other technology to advance her work as an artist in the hopes that her resulting public art will help to repair the cultural rifts these modern conveniences may create.
Boehm’s journey isn’t particularly unique. There are hundreds of young artists working day jobs, advancing their careers online in the evenings and going out and creating on the weekends. Yet, her insights into this modern path to “making it” as an artist and the tension she finds in our interaction with art via technology make Boehm’s story particularly relevant to Lawrence’s aspiring artists.