Feature Image: Anna Koehler
We sit down with artist Ana Koehler to hear about her journey as an artist; how she began to create her work, her inspirations and what it means to her to present the multi-faceted identity of women.
Tell us a little bit about yourself; where are you from? What did you study? How did you get into creating art?
I grew up in a small town in Northern New Hampshire nestled in the White Mountains just south of the Canadian Border. My parents and I lived in a cabin with no running water until I was seven, then moved to a home my father built where my parents still live in and are still working on today.
My parents being both artist and makers, created a home where art was important and valued. When my friends were at Field Hockey I was in the basement of the local Lion’s Club with adult artists drawing from live models.
I attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (now SMFA at Tufts) in Boston and focused on painting and drawing. After two years I left school and stopped making art. I had no idea what I was doing. In 2004 I moved to NYC with my best friend. I found New York stifling creatively. I waited tables, then worked for a range of big and small fashion companies within design and sales roles.
I met my husband during this time and a decade later gave birth to my son. The experience of becoming a mother changed everything for me. In 2015, we moved to Austin, TX. Uprooted and out of my comfort zone, I knew I needed to start making art again. It had been so long since I had made any work, that I was scared to get back into it. I worked with a therapist to process my experience and one day I just started. That was over two years ago and I haven’t stopped since.
What do you find inspiring for your work?
I’m inspired by women. Women in my life, strangers, photos of women in print or online.
I’m of course inspired by other artists. Austin has a very tiny “art-scene”, it’s sometimes hard to see the art you want to see. Instagram is an incredible platform to see art. I love going down a rabbit hole and discovering new artists I would never have been exposed to.
I’m also a Birth/Postpartum Doula and being within other women’s sacred spaces during the biggest shift of their lives has also inspired me.
What is your favourite medium and subject?
Women and I would normally say paint is my favourite medium, but lately I’ve been drawing with pens, coloured pencils and markers and I’m loving it.
Can you explain a bit about the process of creating one of your pieces?
I always attempt to expose what I’m feeling on the inside, so the viewer, can see what I see and feel what I feel. It’s really seeing an image that catches my eye first, and makes me feel the need to interpret that image. It’s like a jolt inside of me, a sense of urgency presents itself and I must get whatever that image triggered in me onto paper or canvas.
Being the mother of a 4 year old, my time to make art is very limited. So I generally work really quickly. I don’t sketch things out first or change things until I have a final perfect “work of art”. It’s very spontaneous and intuitive for me. I find the imperfections in my work interesting and sometimes those imperfections or mistakes lead to a completely different idea.
It’s incredible that you don’t shy away from depicting the complexities of being a woman and the fact that a woman is not just one thing. Do you think other forms of art and media today are showing women as multi-faceted?
I appreciate you acknowledging that about my work! That is really my ultimate goal; to depict the complexities of women and show that we ARE multi-faceted. I think we are definitely seeing an uptick in media, tv, film, art showcasing women as more complex these days.
There is a surge in work being created by women for women specifically. We live in a really interesting time. As women we’ve always been adaptable, multi-layered, strong; we morph, we transition, we transcend. The rest of the world is just trying to catch up to us.
We love how you portray the female form, can you tell us what you mean by “I capture the non-specific moments of women’s lives” and why this is important to you?
For me, every woman is complex, intricate, curious by just existing in the world. There is so much layered into what women are feeling inside, versus what they are showing on the outside.