The Internet is a funny thing. I use it a fair amount as a research tool, before the studio visit, before the interview questions— as a way of getting a preliminary handle on an artist and their work. Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot of information out there on someone, sometimes there is almost too much. But in either case whatever information I find always sets up certain expectations about the artist, and inevitably these expectations are often misguided. As was the case of Korin.
In looking up Korin’s work, I came across a few images of the artist at art openings, all dressed up, looking glamorous in a commanding sort of way, and I just assumed she would be brash and hard-hitting. However, this impression was challenged when Korin welcomed us into her Studio City home— casually dressed and unassuming, she brought us downstairs into her smallish studio space and showed us what she was working on. I hadn’t expected her to be modest or hesitant in talking about her work, but she was and I was also surprised by her seemingly solitary disposition, but I suppose there is an introverted, ruminative quality to her work that hints at that. Korin makes large-scale oil paintings, often of the female form, and usually employs a palette of only bright whites and dark colors, which imbues her work with a distinct moodiness that is at once awing and unnerving. There is something spectral about her figures, looming large but shadowy, reminding us of what we have lost or forgotten, foreboding of something secret, calamitous, or momentous… telling of something that words would only fail at.
Words are difficult and they often don’t get at what we mean. When talking to Korin it was apparent that she wasn’t in the habit of discussing her work at length, and I thought maybe all my questions were overwhelming her. Korin received her B.F.A in Illustration from Art Center College and Design and at one point in our conversation, she acknowledged that she probably hasn’t yet been taught how to really talk about her work, and that she finds it difficult and frustrating. I appreciated her candor and her vulnerability. And I agree with her- I think talking about art, let alone one’s own work, can be incredibly intimidating, complicated, and at times it can feel silly too… like the words are never good enough so why even bother. But ultimately bringing dialogue to art does it a great service— it makes it more accessible and personal, creating access points and connections, and I think people fall in love with art when they understand it, even just a tiny bit… and certainly, Korin’s work isn’t at risk of losing its mystery to a few well considered words.
How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
Figurative, representational, subjective, painterly, and technically skilled.
To be honest, I’ve never been taught how to talk about my work on a fine art level. I feel there is enough of a sense of discomfort and uneasiness in my work to create conversation around it.
My work is sometimes classified as “lowbrow” and not necessarily considered cool or academic. I’m not sure what category I fall into, but I don’t know if that matters to me. There are other people making figurative work in LA, but these days there seems to be a push away from representational work in general. I do wish it was celebrated and not considered passé in the high-brow art world.
What mediums do you work with?
Mainly oil paint on panel. Sometimes I like to play around with gouache, charcoal, and graphite pencils.
I’ve read that you often sew your own costumes, and style and photograph each model for your paintings. What is your criteria when making the costumes and choosing the models?
It’s hard to say because the criteria changes with every new show depending on theme and mood. I really like painting white as a rule. In general I don’t like making statements with color, a limited palette works for me. I also enjoy looking at patterned cloth (although its a pain in the butt to paint) and my tendency is to seek out curvy models with big beautiful eyes.
The female form and gothic-like sensibilities predominate in your work— can you tell us more about that?
I hope my work conveys a mood rather than a decorative style. I don’t know much about gothic style or art but its true that my paintings tend to be solemn or less cheery than most.
I hear the word gothic over and over regarding my work, so in a way I’ve embraced it… but it isn’t necessarily my own language for my work. I don’t think about sticking to a particular theme or specific style when I’m making art, I’m not that methodical. Hopefully I compose an interesting landscape full of questions and the viewer can facilitate the answers. I prefer when people are a bit unsure of what is going on in my work, when they sense a narrative but aren’t able to fully identify it.
Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
Not directly no but I am my own best influencer.
You were born in Arizona and raised in Colorado, but have been in LA for quite some time. How has LA influenced your work?
I’m not aware of any specific influences but I’ve certainly met many inspiring artists here. A large city like LA brings an artist so much culture and inspiration from all over the world. I could live in another metropolitan place and feel the same way, but I will never move to another city. LA is just too comfortable— the weather is great and I love Mexican food.
What are you presently inspired by— are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
Movies (especially horror and suspense) and photography give me inspiration as well as the discovery of new artists in my medium. I’m a horror movie nut. I’ve always loved to be scared, ever since I was a little girl. that feeling that you can’t shake off, a feeling that stays with you— I get a pulsating jolt from that sensation, it thrills me.
I went to a great exhibition at Pepperdine University’s museum last year. The paintings were all beautiful old works from that golden era of illustration, which I consider was from 1910 thru the 1940’s. Their painting techniques back then were so exceptional, so intimidating, that it makes me want to cut off my hands and give up painting completely! Very few contemporary painters can paint like that. I went to that exhibition twice.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
New models, larger scale paintings, sumptuous surfaces and beautiful textures. That’s all I can say. I like to keep my new projects quiet until they are fully formed and I hope my fans will be delightfully surprised.
How do you navigate the art world?
As a fan of art, I keep an open mind which helps me be inspired by other artists. The business of art has always seemed strange and sort of an oxymoron. In a perfect world the words “business” and “art” would never be coupled. I prefer not to deal with selling myself or my work and instead leave the business side to galleries and art dealers. An artist should never know how the sausage is made.