Artist of the Month: Candace Knapp
We can tell a lot about the ART – and the mind – of Candace Knapp by simply considering the title of her web page. Visit KnappsPlayground.com and we are immediately immersed in the beautiful, fun, comic, serious, ambiguous, and multi-dimensional works of this Artist whose Father was a toy designer.
"I combine images and shapes like words in a poem, hoping to nourish the imagination, tease the rational mind and touch the emotions of my audience,” she says. And she manipulates the visuals she creates in order for that “imagery to be ambiguous enough to allow multiple levels of meaning.” She is inspired by “animals, seed pods, shells, birds, human gestures and other natural phenomena,” and she places her ‘creature-sculptures’ in relation to one another to suggest fantastic stories in a contemporary Dr. Seussian manner.
Enchanted Mangrove Forest
The fact that her father was a toy designer has always had a profound effect upon Ms. Knapp, and she’s always been interested in making things.
“When I graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art with a BFA in sculpture,” she says, “I won a traveling scholarship. This enabled me to see the great museums of Europe, cross the Sahara Desert and see African wood sculptures in Niger, Upper Volta and Ghana. These sculptures influenced me to continue working in wood after I graduated from the University of Illinios with an MFA in sculpture. When I moved to Houston I found that I could make a living designing furniture. My husband, Björn Andrén, and I have done just that in Florida for almost twenty years.”
With works as varied as 5 sculptures in the permanent collection of the Miaoli Wood Sculpture Museum in Taiwan to a recent installation at the Florida Museum for Women Artists in Deland, Florida, Ms. Knapp is now able to create full time, and she spends that time creating flocks and gatherings of her charmingly idiosyncratic sculptures. She even composes music to go with them and writes stories to further explain their ‘lives.’ She says, “I hope my audience is having as much fun as I am.”
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started?
My dad was a major influence because he was a toy designer and always encouraged me to be creative. I graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art with a traveling scholarship which enabled me to travel through Europe, across the Sahara desert and through West Africa. All these things made a big impression on me. I earned a Master of Fine Art degree in sculpture from the University of Illinois which gave me even more time to explore my possibilities as an artist.
A gathering of friends
Please use your own words to describe your art...
My sculptures are mostly in wood, which I feel is a magical living material. I can still sense the energy of the tree as I work with it. Wood is warm and friendly material and is perfect for my very gentle sculptures. I started painting because it was a faster way to explore the meanings behind shapes and I could play more with colors. I like to create depth in painting by overlapping colors and shapes and suggest meaning by juxtaposing suggestive shapes with one another. People often say my work is whimsical which I find a little irritating, but I understand that they mean it is delightful and non-threatening. I feel that my work creates a gentle atmosphere in the room.
I often compose background sounds for my installations, sounds like birds and whisperings and waves crashing and creatures stirring. People often tell me they love the sounds and that it makes the work come alive. The other thing I have begun doing to expand the meaningfulness of the work is to write stories in the voices of the characters that are my sculptures. I post these on my blog, KnappsArtStories.
When/What happened to first make you think of yourself as an artist?
Since there was so much art around me growing up I always assumed I was an artist. Whether or not I could fit into the world in some other way was the question.
What inspires you NOW?
I am always amazed to see how an ambiguous shape can seem to have a personality and suggest a story or an emotion. I always start with a shape or three dimensional form and sometimes it becomes a plant or animal. Lately I am observing the shape of water and the feelings suggested by different kinds of movements. I have a new piece called Blue Bubble, and I try to make people feel the effervescence, a bubble rising to the surface. It has an uplifting suggestion to the mind. I start every day with meditation and that is generally when ideas come to me.
Louise, Renaldo, Leilah, Candy, Oscar
Mt Dora Center for the Arts
Where is your favorite place to create art?
I love to be in my studio with saw dust everywhere and the fans blowing. The temperature is 90 degrees and I have paint and glue all over my hands and my clothes. I am completely absorbed in what I am doing and the hours pass quickly until at the end of the day I notice that my feet hurt and I am hungry and my husband is lonesome. This is the good life.
Describe the “perfect” YOU painting or sculpture. Have you achieved it ?
I love my painting "Wild Sunday" because it reminds me of a magical garden
with caring creatures. I wrote a poem about it and it is on my blog, KnappsArtStories.blogspot.com It is the way I am in my heart of hearts and the way I want to world to be.
Creating takes a lot of energy. How do you “re-charge” your batteries?
I find painting to be more cerebral than sculpture because the space in a painting is all imagined space. For that reason when I paint my mind gets tired. Painters have to make decisions very quickly and the artwork can change at any moment. Sculpture is a lot slower and more physical. When I have an idea for a sculpture it can take days or weeks to create what I envision. There is a lot of hard physical work involved, and it is my body that gets tired first. The best way to get my energy back is to get a new idea, because each idea comes with fresh enthusiasm. My best work is always the one I haven't done yet.
Women's Museum, Deland
What’s your fondest hope for the future of your career?
In the past I have done several Public Art commissions and it was exciting. My dream is to have solo shows in Museums and to be in more permanent collections. I don't know if that will happen, but it is my dream anyway. My main objective is to become the best artist I am capable of being and to continue to learn and grow as long as I live. It is what I enjoy in life.
How can readers find and purchase your art?
Of course people can contact me directly by e-mail. If they are in the Sarasota area, my work is represented by Dabbert Gallery, and that web site is DabbertGallery.com My hope for the future is to be represented by galleries in different parts of Florida and other cities so I can concentrate on the making part of art and not the selling part.
Readers may email CANDACE KNAPP at candy [at] candaceknapp.com or visit the Artist’s website at www.knappsplayground.com. Her blog – with stories about her creations is http://www.KnappsArtStories.blogspot.com
Josh Garrick is the Florida Arts Editor for Wandering Educators
All photos courtesy and copyright Bjorn Andren