Like Your Cool Big Sister: Kamla Kakaria

Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, accordion structure, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle Maker, October 13, 2011

Book lust! (Gift from Kamla!)

I’ve known Kamla for many years (since I’ve been at Pratt)–we share an office together. One of the best parts of my job is the toggling back and forth between work talk and art talk (which are often, though not always, one and the same). And then, and even better, because we’ve known one another for so long, she and I sometimes drift away from talk of work and art to talk about our own lives (our own art, relationships, struggles, accomplishments). . .Kamla is very much like a cool big sister.

Seattle Maker's Rebbecca Tomas with Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery in Seattle

Rebbecca Tomas and Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, Seattle

I love her work, especially when she uses encaustic materials and techniques–she has an amazing eye for color and layering. This month, she and Romson Regarde Bustillo are showing work at Shift Gallery (downtown in the Tashiro Kaplan Building at Third and Prefontaine). I attended their (second) opening last Thursday.

For Kamla’s part of the exhibtion, entitled InBetween, she created an interactive display of artist’s books. Kamla is one of the most prolific artists I know–she is always working and thinking. She writes of InBetween,

I make simple accordion books and pages whenever I am in between projects. In this current show I am displaying that work; that visual thinking. It is not planning or diagramming it is just thinking and doing.

To display her work, she hung rows and rows of shelving to hold dozens and dozens and dozens of her books. It was a great decision to present them in this way. We’re used to seeing books laid out on tables, or encased in a vitrine–opened flat to selected pages or in some other way contained. Kamla “hung” her books much like she would have hung any other of her work, right on the wall, and this created a sense of energy and flow and story as viewers considered the books as individual objects and parts of the larger installation.

Although she uses myriad materials in her work, what tied everything together, and made such an impact, was the singular structure she prefers to work with–the accordion.

Accordion structures pose a unique challenge to their maker. You must consider their content not just linearly page to page, but also spatially–page by page forming one large unit. Successful accordion structures then are those that can be experienced both sequentially (beginning to end, fold by fold), and “all at once” (fully extended).

I know how Kamla works–quickly and decisively. When I watch her teach or work, I am always aware of her depth of experience as a maker. She trusts what she knows about process and materials and doesn’t doubt. People really respond to this–her students love her and her work sells.

Following are some images from the exhibition. . .

Accordion artist's books by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerDETAIL, accordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerAccordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerDETAIL, accordion artist's book by Kamla Kakaria, photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle MakerArtist Kamla Kakaria at Shift Gallery, Seattle; photo by Rebbecca Tomas, Seattle Maker

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