Kadie Salfi admits that she needs varying types of stimulation for her art practice. While some artists can focus on a single subject matter for almost their entire career and become well known for it, she says she always has to have a few directions happening at once. At the moment Kadie has her politically and environmentally inspired work as well as a more commercial series, Petite Blue. “This way of working keeps me on my toes and adds a richness to my work and a balance that is crucial,” she says. Kadie is an American artist who graduated from The School of Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts where she studied printmaking, photography and sculpture. She worked for two years at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, and printed for Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra and Jasper Johns, among others. Kadie also completed an artist in residency program in Italy and a year-long fellowship in Ithaca, New York, where she continues to live and work.
Which five words best describe you? Passionate, serious, caring, creative, simple.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995 and soon after moved to Los Angeles to print at Gemini G.E.L. for a couple of years. After printing at Gemini for many of the artists I grew up admiring, I moved back to San Francisco and set up a studio in the Mission District. This was a very exciting time for me. I had just met my now husband, Jason who had just launched his skateboard business Comet Skateboards, and our life was a mix of art, skateboards, surfing, art shows and pure creativity. It was a very stimulating and wild time in SF. I put on my own shows, participated in group and solo shows at small galleries around the bay area and got my career going. I continue to evolve as an artist and now have a few directions that keep me passionate. Politically and environmentally inspired work and Petite Blue, a more commercially inspired brand that is a great reprieve after making work about the gun issue in America or the poaching of animals globally.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To always have integrity with how I live my life and with how I make my art.
What’s your proudest career achievement? After I had my daughter, Lucia, in 2004 I felt a bit confused on how to be a mom and continue with my art career. I had just finished a body of work called Metamorphosis in 2003 that had been shown in a gallery in Emeryville, CA but I wanted to show it more. I decided to organise a solo show at a great space in San Francisco, CA called Live Worms Gallery run by artist Kevin Brown. It is a great space that is on street level in the heart of Northbeach. Kevin uses it as a studio and as well rents it out to artists, poets and creatives of all types. I rented the space for a long weekend and hung my Metamorphosis series. The opening was a huge success and I had a wonderful time running the gallery for the weekend, meeting people from all over the world. I got what I needed: a reminder that I love making art, showing my work to the world and interacting with people, hearing how what I make touches and inspires them.
What’s been your best decision? When I was at SAIC I often made editions of prints that I would then tape all over the school and on the street anonymously. I loved doing this and getting to see the pieces disappear over time and hearings students talk about the prints. I did this a few times in San Francisco as well: once after Joe DiMaggio died, a famous baseball player from SF. A few years ago a friend in Ithaca encouraged me to paint an electrical box as part of a public art project to beautify the city. At first I was reluctant, but after a few nudges I did and it was a wonderful experience that reminded me of how much I love public art and want to keep doing more. Just this summer I was invited by the City of Ithaca to complete work for a 33' x 10' wall in a wonderful and vibrant new alley called Press Bay Alley. I am excited to do more public art work around the world.
Who inspires you? My husband and my daughter. My husband has helped me to see the world as a whole and remind me that what one person does can have an effect on many. There is a great power to that knowledge and if used positively, can have ever-lasting results. Some of the work I make is about beautiful images that are soft and bold and simple. Some of my work is environmentally and politically based, highlighting subjects that have very negative ripple effects around the globe. I feel it is my duty as a visual artist to interpret what I see, hear and feel into a concrete item that others may learn from. My daughter inspires me to be the best person I can be, to find joy and laughter and that we are all always growing and changing no matter how young or old we are. Artists Vija Celmins, Gerhardt Richter, Joseph Beuys, Robert Rauschenburg, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra.
What are you passionate about? Animals. I always wanted to work with animals from the time I was little. I still dream of moving to Africa and helping to protect elephants and rhinos or studying dolphins and whales in the Bahamas. There is still time, but what I have done is make art about animals. I made a body of work in 2010 called Apex Predator-Body Parts that was about poaching body parts illegally from animals around the world. I continue to make art about animals, sometimes political and sometimes to honour the beauty and awesomeness they have.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I am afraid to meet anyone from the past that might disappoint my expectations. This may sound odd, but I do believe in past lives, so honestly, I would love to meet my past selves. I think this could shed a light on why I am the way I am, the dreams I have, the passions I have, the negative energy and feelings as well. We are mysteries to ourselves at times and how amazing to get some insight into why, what, where and when.
What dream do you still want to fulfill? Besides working with animals in some way, I am also passionate about food and have always wanted to have a small, tiny restaurant, cafe or food truck. Traveling all over the world as well is at the top of my list. I was lucky enough to travel to Nepal, Thailand, Israel, Hong Kong and England between the ages of nine and eleven. The experiences I had on those trips helped to shape who I am today. I would love to show my daughter ways of life that are so different than her own.
What are you reading? I just finished David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and I am reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman to my daughter. I try to stay current with the The NY Times and National Geographic.
images courtesy of kadie salfi