Vol. 10 Visual Artists Elyse Harrison, Robb Kunz, Katia She, Marie Recalde, Richard Metz, and Nitasha Chunylall (aka Thash C)

Artists on Artists: the Visual Artists of Vol 10

By Vol. 10 Visual Artists | March 5, 2024

We asked the visual artists from our Witness issue what questions they would want to ask their fellow Volume 10 contributors. A few then answered those questions, delving into their craft, their inspirations, and their approach to creating. Read on to learn more about Elyse Harrison who painted Into the Spray, The Narcissist, and the Buzz of Discontent; Robb Kunz who painted Lot’s Wife Witnesses the Destruction of Sodom, Destruction of Gomorrah, Mommy Dearest, Onoboros, and Cedron Cemetery; Katia She, who illustrated “Self-Care Muse”; Marie Recalde who created the collages Dreamweavers, Paved Paradise, and The Entry; Richard Metz who created the series Red Landscape with Crows, View from Below, and Up Close in the Field; and Nitasha Chunylall (aka Thash C) who painted The Affair - the Beginning and The Affair - the End. After you read this feature, make sure to check out their gorgeous work in Vol 10: WITNESS!

Robb Kunz, interviewed by Elyse Harrison

Elyse Harrison: Would you prefer to leave your pieces untitled or do titles enhance the purpose of your work?

Robb Kunz: Titles are an important part of the whole process for me. They offer a chance to add an element to a piece that derives from a linguistic/rhetorical place. For me, titles allow a piece individuality that using “untitled” does not. As someone who works on an Undergraduate magazine, I am constantly surprised by the number of pieces using “untitled” or labeled using the number/letter configuration of the file when it’s saved. Titles are fun and challenging.

EH: Have you ever made art that first appeared in a dream? If not, do you think it just isn't possible and why?

RK: Yes. It hasn’t happened a lot, but when it did, it was impactful. In one particular dream, the shape of people’s heads was so peculiar that it stuck with me after waking. Naturally, it feels difficult to describe in writing. The shape I was left with was a mash-up of curved and straight lines, shaded from dark to light, coalescing as something spherical at the center. With each head, something about the configuration would change slightly, leaving smudges of what previously existed. The effect of a camera flash on your closed eyes. Weird. But inspiring. 

EH: What gets in the way of your own success?

RK: My Playstation. And fear of a blank canvas.

EH: What is the best environment for you to create your work? Does time of day matter? How about the climate or cultural vibrancy?

RK: My living room. I usually paint in the morning and evening. The differential in light makes for an interesting shift in perspective and focus. 

Vibrancy is a fascinating way of describing cultural or climate resonance, especially as it relates to the function of art. As a teacher and also a gay man, listening and reacting to a particular vibrancy seems especially important. I hope that the way I navigate the artist-space mirrors the honesty I have with my students. 

Elyse Harrison, interviewed by Marie Recalde

Marie Recalde: The act of creating is both personal and universal. Can you describe the moment(s) that you are struck by an idea and go about translating it into something tangible?

Elyse Harrison:  I like to bring my sketchbook with me when I am out somewhere in a public setting. I often come up with ideas for new paintings by just casually drawing in my sketchbook. I like being in an unfamiliar place like a cafe or a bar to formulate ideas. Ironically, those impersonal spaces tend to trigger a very personal creative impulse.  

MR: Your Uber is here—but wait, it’s a DeLorean time machine. Which four artists/musicians/filmmakers are you visiting and why?

EH: This was a tricky question for me because there are many people I admire and am inspired by who are still living. But I did come up with these four:

  1. Alexander Calder, for his lifelong connection to his childlike self.
  2. Louise Fitzhugh, the author of Harriet the Spy, for her success in writing a book I read when I was a kid and felt an immediate connection with. Harriet was so independent and curious, fearless really. I loved how Fitzhugh gave Harriet the understanding that adventure was right around the corner. I think Fitzhugh must have found human nature to be fascinating and I do too, especially as psychological studies for making art.
  3. Saul Bass, for his stunning graphic design in both print and film. His back story is great too, a real scrapper!
  4. Monica Vitti, a movie star who Michaelangelo Antonioni used in his famous Italian Neo Realism films. Aside from her great beauty, she appears in these films with a kind of detached, independent and adventurous persona.

MR: We all witness things uniquely. How did the theme of Witness inspire and come through your work?

EH: I loved the theme of “Witness” immediately because it suggested personal observation and my art is strong in that category. I never tire of interpreting visually what I see in other people: their tendencies and habits, everyday repeat actions, how these things effect us, how our faces and bodies respond to these small gestures and moments in our everyday lives.

MR: We’re not superstitious, but maybe a little stitious. Do you have a ritual around creating your visual art?

EH: Not any rituals, but it has to be QUIET! (notice how loudly I just said QUIET).

MR: If you could go back and tell yourself at age 10 one sentence about all you’ve learned, what would it be?

EH:  You are right to be curious, creative and happy and there is no reason to change that perspective, ever.

Marie Recalde, interviewed by Robb Kunz

Robb Kunz: What inspires you most poignantly to create?

Marie Recalde: Connection is my clearest drive for creating. When I feel disconnected from myself, others, the divine, I am not my most sparkly. Even as an introvert, I want to feel like an effervescent, human equivalent of Sugar-Free Red Bull. Creating is my direct throughline to Source, and that jolts me fully alive and awake to the present moment and to the eternal.

RK: What do you believe are the implications of an art-deprived culture/world?

MR: There’s a place for everything, and now with a great cultural emphasis on efficiency, automation, and convenience at any cost, it can feel like everything we consume is contrived. The tools we make need to work for us, not overtake our mental abilities. Beauty and art are necessities for survival—we’ve been warned against its decimation throughout history. Rigidity and calcification take over curiosity and development. The left hemisphere has always wanted to explain away the right’s whimsical reachings, but I believe science and art are two sides of the same coin. Mystery is eternal. What is ‘certain’ today constantly evolves and plays catch-up. Late-stage capitalism? Perfect machine to rage against by enacting your agency. USE whatever pisses you off. Make it work for you instead. They hate that, and we’re here for it.

Creativity is an attribute we are all born with. It’s a muscle and the more we work it in a given area of life, the more vibrant that area becomes. Problem solving is creativity in action—no matter our profession, we’re all engaging with agility and adaptability. Shifting our perspective and mindset, anything becomes an art. AI and automation can go clean up the ocean and leave imagining to the rest of us with beating hearts and tempest minds. Use it for good, not to manipulate. Haters gonna hate, creators gonna create the world they want to see.

RK: Describe how you decide on colors (is there a process, or is it more attached to whimsy).

MR: Most often, a song will strike me like a lightning bolt while I’m driving to pick my kids up from school. Usually Keane, Tool and Deftones supply me with the greatest hits of color, inspiration, imagery, unearthing of a universal issue to reckon with, and general vibe in which to head.

RK: How would you describe your relationship to the act of creating?

MR: I treat it as a holy and sacred act. It’s not all serious and solemn—it’s more joy-filled and wondrous. I come to the altar (usually my kitchen table) and begin a treasure hunt through a pile of magazines. I’m an empty vessel, floating down a river, jamming to music, meeting inspiration halfway. When I am picked up by the flow, I’m just the hands piecing the tapestry together. 

The experience of birthing two little humans fundamentally changed my relationship to creating. I’d faced my greatest fear. It was an initiation and installation of power, reminding me, “It was in you all along!” As I’ve gotten older, the act has only become more magical, fun and true to me. The call is clearer than ever to continue facing those shadows, annihilating old fears that are past their expiration date, and embodying badass creatrix energy.

Richard Metz, interviewed by Nitasha Chunylall (aka Thash C)

Nitasha Chunylall: Some days are an emotional/mental struggle. Do you have those days? If yes, how do you push past it to still create?

Richard Metz: Most days are an emotional challenge. Anxiety plagued me. Despair about humanity and what we are doing to the flora and fauna of the world is a thrice daily appearance. Uncertainty about the importance, value, or impact of art haunts me constantly.

And there’s so much to do in terms of work, keeping house, relationships, exercise that justifiably takes my time, mental head space, and strength.

Setting a time to work, a day to work, either outside or inside helps. Balancing work and art days helps too. The enjoyment of the process is an important motivator. Sometimes just sitting in the meadow for a while before working , appreciating how wonderful it all is, helps me. 

Therapy helps a lot too.

NC: Are there any subtle themes that you thread throughout your pieces?

RM: There are several themes in my work. Getting closer to nature - through study and time spent is one. A strong environmental preservation ethos, a desperate plea to appreciate the beauty and importance of the natural world. Through the study of crows as the moving actors in my piece, I’m trying to suggest that humans aren’t the most important species, the most evolved species, or necessary.

Nitasha Chunylall, interviewed by Katia She

Katia She: What does taking care of yourself mean to you?

Nitasha Chunylall: Taking care of myself means exercising even when I don’t feel it, giving myself the time and space to introspect and reflect, and allowing myself to eat an ice-cream every now and then.

KS: Which significant global events stand out most in your memory?

NC: I am old, and fortunate, enough to remember the first democratic elections in my beautiful country, South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in 1994. 1994 was also a tragic year as I watched evening news broadcasts about the Rwandan genocide, and that certainly stands out in my mind. 9/11 is another global event that I recall quite vividly. And, of course, I could not leave out the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant global event in recent memory.

KS: How do you deal with experiencing difficult emotions?

NC: I try my best to breathe through them, but I must admit that sometimes at the height of a difficult emotion, breathing just does not help (if I remember to breathe at all, that is). So often, I have just got to let the difficult emotions out: scream into a pillow if I am angry; cry if I am sad; paint, paint, paint!

KS: Do you think it is possible to separate art from the artist?

NC: I believe that art comes from within. Even when the art is heavily influenced by something, or someone, external to the artist, it is something inside the artist that is sparked by those external influences.

Unlike other types of professions, where professionals may engage with subject matter outside of themselves without necessarily accessing their inner selves (e.g. accountants may balance the numbers without tapping into their inner thoughts and emotions), I see art as an expression of something within. For me, the artist can be separated from the art no more than the tears can be separated from the person crying them.

KS: What actions empower women to be more active in society and amplify their voices?

NC: Although the circumstances faced by women around the world are specific, layered and nuanced, which makes it difficult to address the issue of empowerment in general terms and without producing a thesis, I do think that a common feature in the actions that empower women to be seen and heard, is a sense of safety.

Actions that result in women being safe to be more active in society and to speak their truths (and stand by them) come from various sources:

·    governments that pass laws guaranteeing the safety of women to be more active;

·    groups and organisations (often made up of other women and allies) that create or fight for safe spaces for women;

·    companies that do not overlook women for promotions and leadership roles;

·    all the way down to individuals who directly engage with women. Even an intimate partner who threatens a woman's safety, or the safety of her family, in any way can be disempowering and can prevent a woman from being more active in society and from amplifying her voice.

Katia She, interviewed by Richard Metz

Richard Metz: How do you handle the sadness in your work?

Katia She: Sadness doesn’t allow me to work. When I am sad, I give it a time, I lay in bed, rewatch Sex in the City or something similar. After I gave it a space, I transform it in anger or desire to change, both things go hand by hand, I think.

RM: How do you feel when editing or revising work and how do you make yourself do it?

KS: A bit like giving it a second breath, if there is a need to edit work, it means it’s not finished. You can feel it easily. Some of my works I will never retouch.

RM: How do you think and feel climate collapse will affect Art making now and in the future?

KS: Sometimes I feel that there will be no need in art if we will fight for clear water and food. That makes me feel down. After I gave time for sadness, I come back to actions.

RM: How do you consider others when making art that pleases you, i.e. presentation, format, detail?

KS: I don’t really think about others while I do my work. I believe that how I feel is the most honest way for me to be creative, then results can resonate with others.

About the author

Nitasha Chunylall was born in 1980 and grew up in the sugarcane farming town of Tongaat in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. She currently resides in Johannesburg, South Africa where she dedicates her time to her art. Having spent more than a decade in the corporate world and then three years studying a Business degree, Chunylall discovered a love of and passion for art. She is a self-taught abstract artist who has developed her skills intuitively and by learning from other artists. Chunylall began her art journey by exploring various acrylic pouring techniques before turning to a range of media to create physical texture on canvases. She enjoys experimenting with different textures, colour palettes and paints to create her own distinct style, which has been influenced by abstract expressionism and street art. Chunylall’s art – both the process of its creation and the final product – is the liberating exploration of her inner-self: her emotions, ideas and inner dialogue; as well as the cathartic release of otherwise difficult to express states

Elyse Harrison has been exhibiting her art since the mid 1970’s in the Washington, DC area. Her work includes paintings, mixed media sculptures and commercially commissioned site-specific murals. She has received numerous awards and grants throughout the years and maintains an active studio and a micro gallery in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. She was the owner-operator of Gallery Neptune, a regional contemporary gallery from 2003-2010, and the owner-operator of Studio Neptune, an art education program for children from 1990-2017, also located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. Her art has been reviewed in The Washington Post, The Gazette Newspapers, Modernism Magazine and The Baltimore City Paper.

Robb Kunz hails from Teton Valley, Idaho. He received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho. He currently teaches writing at Utah State University. His art has been published in Equinox, Peatsmoke Journal and Fauxmoir and forthcoming in Hole in the Head Review and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. He received Special Recognition in the 13th Annual “Landscapes” Art Exhibition from Light, Space, Time.

Richard Metz is a 64-year-old Philadelphia based artist, father, husband, former art teacher, writer, and activist with a focus on environmental and social issues. He lives just outside Philadelphia, in Erdenheim, PA. He graduated from Tyler School of Art in 1980, and received an MFA from Maine College of Art in 2000. His artwork since then has included painting on non-traditional materials, sculpture, installations, performance and street theater, printmaking, and illustrated stories. He has shown widely and his works are in many collections, private and corporate. Metz has been chosen to participate in artist residencies at different art centers around the country each summer, in places as diverse as Nova Scotia, Philadelphia, Washington State, South Carolina and Massachusetts, where he has created an ephemeral outdoor installation using natural non-toxic pigments on the trees. Works in the last 15 years have explored visions of the natural world and the creatures that live there. His strong environmental activism preserving open spaces and reducing pollution necessitates a focus on many environmental health considerations in his artwork: using non-toxic materials, many natural pigments, less technological solutions, and a smaller carbon energy footprint. His series about crows and ravens began at the start of the Covid epidemic and is ongoing with a focus on the relationship between the creatures and land in different places and seasons.

Marie V. Recalde is a writer, artist, translator and California native living abroad for the last decade. Her work has been featured by multiple American art galleries, as well as in magazines and journals across the world.

Katia She was born in 1992 in Minsk, Belarus. She is closely connected with the culture of Belarus, Sardinia (IT) and Poland. Katia received her Bachelor and Master degrees from the University of Arts in Poznan (Poland) studying various fields of art with a focus on furniture and object design. During the Erasmus Practice, she worked in the studio of Vincent Tojrdman. Katia completed studies in the Polytechnic of Milan (Italy). She currently lives and works in Athens (GR).

up next...

Artists on Artists: the Poets of Vol. 10

We asked the poets from our Witness issue what questions they would want to ask their fellow Volume 10 contributors. A few then answered those questions, delving into their craft, their inspirations, and their approach to creating. Read on to learn more about poets D Donna, Hanna Maria Zagulska, Maggie Rue Hess, henry 7. reneau, jr., Kelly Gray, and Sunshine Meyers.