Kara Hendershot is a painter currently living in St. Paul. She’s a prominent part of the arts community and stays involved by exhibiting her work as well as promoting other local artists and art events in the Twin Cities. Lately, she has taken on a couple different collaboration projects with other local artists, where different ideas and styles can be developed and intertwined. Kara has also recently created a humorous and playful new series that is published into t-shirts and hand-made magnets.
Photos and interview by Kelsey Johnston
Secrets of the City: Where are you from?
KH: I’m originally from Toronto. I moved here when I was about 13.
Secrets: Why is painting your expression of choice?
KH: Ever since I was a little kid I was really into drawing and I didn’t really get into painting til I was a junior in college. I played around with it a little in high school but, didn’t really get a grasp on it til this one course that I took really opened my eyes to painting. Once I got into it I didn’t want to go back because of the endless opportunities. It’s so wide open. It’s something that I’m constantly learning.
Secrets: Wow, that was actually my next question if you’d like to delve into it further. The question I had was what are some things you continue to explore or what never gets old?
KH: Every time I start a new painting I start differently. I always start abstract and just go from there. Nothing ever feels the same there are always surprises. I like that it doesn’t have to be too technical or mechanical. Especially with mixing acrylic with water there are just things that naturally happen within the paint so it has this life of it’s own. You can control it to a certain extent but, I like that you can’t completely control it. That’s where it never gets old. I find things that happen to surprise me like with a different brush or palette knife; there’s always a different technique or sometimes I’ll realize I’ll do something by accident but, I’ll like it and go with it.
Secrets: There are many dreamlike qualities to your work is this a source of inspiration?
KH: Sometimes, dreams and daydreaming. The overall process of thought. I feel like I’m a bit of a thinker, I walk to work everyday and as I’m walking I’m always thinking and observing. Usually the people I see I become really interested in. I’m interested in people and their stories. So, I’ll start sketching from these observations and then I will develop these images into a multi layer painting. It’s funny because I am quite a thinker when I am not painting, but when I am painting I am the opposite; I just let my mind go and let things unfold.
Secrets: Some say painting is a dead art, how do you feel about this phrase?
KH: (laughs) I personally disagree as a painter. It’s something that gives me excitement. Do you think when people say that they mean the way society or culture views it? As if it’s been overdone?
Secrets: The way I’ve been introduced to that phrase is that everything there is to do with painting has been done. I don’t that’s correct but, with how common it’s been said it’s hard to ignore that there is a dialectic going on there.
KH: When I hear that term sometimes I think it’s dead in terms of society and culture or maybe it’s saying that America doesn’t appreciate fine art like other cultures do but, as far as saying it’s dead as in it’s not going anywhere, what if they would have said that 100 years ago or 200 years ago? Look how much has been done. You can never really predict when something is going to be over, or even when it is at its height. Art, much like life, is always full of surprises and I think it’s inhibiting to say that something is ‘dead’ or ‘over’.
So, now it’s more of a challenge to excel at painting or to stand out. There are certain paths you can follow or feed off of and combine into your own style. I’ve heard people say that before though, an old co-worker said “I think Warhol was the last painter to actually do anything new” but I would have to disagree.
Secrets: What is your personal soundtrack at the moment, what are you listening to?
KH: I’ve been listening to some of the music I listened to when I was a teenager. Some early 90’s depeche mode and I also listen to the radio, the Current.
Secrets: What’s the best part about living in St. Paul?
KH: I like that it’s small and quieter, it’s got a neighborhood feel. I can walk to and from work. I like to be able to walk to a local bar of cafe without having to worry about parking or digging for quarters to pay the meter.
Secrets: What’s your favorite establishment in the Twin Cities?
KH: I really like Wet Paint on Grand where I get my art supplies. Every time I go in there they are super helpful and friendly. Even if I’m checking out at the counter I have a good little conversation with them about anything. As far as hang out places goes, I really like Cossetta’s in St. Paul, they have a little bakery and cheese shop.
Secrets: Childhood dream career.
KH: When I was really little I wanted to be a vet and then I found out that you had to put animals down and I thought “I don’t know if I could do that”. I’m sure there was some point where I wanted to be a sports star, I wanted to be an actress for a while, a little bit of everything. Ultimately, I wanted to be able to express my ideas and use my own voice, and I knew I wanted to be involved in the arts. It’s the only thing I have ever felt truly excited and passionate about.