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Interview - Kalan Strauss

Interview - Kalan Strauss-occi-park


Read our Article on Kalan Strauss HERE

OCCI: Can you tell us a little about you’re artistic upbringing?

KALAN: My dad use to do on camera acting, and voice overs, and he would take me, and our dog, Lucky, down to Hollywood with him for his auditions and jobs. Lucky and I would just sit in the studio or behind set and be as quiet as could be (which is crazy because Lucky would whine everywhere we went, he was a nervous wreck. But once we were in the studio or behind set where we were supposed to be quiet, he wouldn’t make a peep. It was like the only time he wouldnt whine when we took him out of the house). My dad took me with him instead of getting me a babysitter or nanny since my mom would work during the day. It was here when I think my love for visual art began, whether I knew it or not. Hollywood is outrageous and it is very overwhelming visually.  I was constantly bombarded by billboards and advertisements, along with being behind set and seeing artists of all kinds running around and doing their thing. Seeing all of this everyday, it undoubtably had an effect on me. My dad also being and artist and loving art, exposed me to a ton of different art galleries and museums when I was really young. So that also had a huge impact.


OCCI: How did you land in Chicago + what do you find most inspiring about the city?

KALAN: I would come to Chicago when I was a kid, because we had family and friends here. I always loved going to the Art Institute of Chicago, and always imagined living in downtown and how cool that would be. It wasn’t until I was in a drawing class at my college in CA where I was studying marketing and advertising, that I realized that vision might become a reality. I was in this drawing class and my professor mentioned that a rep from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago was there talking to classes about the school. So I ran down to go to his lecture and hear what he had to say. Then one of the professors asked if he could take a look at portfolios, and he agreed to. I wasn’t prepared for this, I didnt have a physical portfolio like everybody else, I was just in class and had no idea this was even going on. But I did have my Instagram set up in a way that was like one big cohesive portfolio. This was like 4 years ago, and the way I was utilizing my Instagram was new and different from most people. Needless to say, he kinda freaked out at the way I was making conceptual work and merging my marketing and advertising background into my artwork. He reached out about a week later and told me that he waived my application fee, and

That I should apply. And once I did apply, I got a scholarship to attend SAIC. So It all kind of just happened very quickly, but that’s what brought me to Chicago. once I touched down and really immersed myself, I fell in love with it. Chicago is a perfect mix between a big time city and a midwestern town. It’s close knit and the art community here is insanely inspiring. It’s collaborative instead of competitive and that’s what I find most inspiring about Chicago.  


OCCI: As an interdisciplinary artist you work in a number of materials, from Paint to Neon, CGI, Sculpture and more. Do you have a favorite medium to work in at the moment (and why)?

KALAN: I don’t have a favorite medium at all, I think they all are special in their own ways. However, I think I will always consider myself  a painter, because in all of these mediums that I am using, I am coming at them from the eyes of a painter. Right now what I’m trying to do and what I’ve been trying to do for the last year or so, is really figure out a way to merge all of these mediums into one big thing that is cohesive and makes sense. That is the difficult part for me... creating one big body of work out of all these mediums I’ve been using. Instead of a bunch of different types of work with each medium.


OCCI: You’ve done some really unique activations for Uber, Nike and others. What does a dream brand collaboration for you look like?

KALAN: With all of the collaborations I’ve done with big brands like that, I’ve been lucky enough to still be 100% in charge of what my work looks like. A lot of times, companies will try to just get artists to carry out their vision, especially with artists that aren’t too well known yet. So for me, it is essential that I have 100% creative power and I am not jeopardizing my practice in any way for a check.. but a dream brand collab would probably be something that isn’t just centered around the brand expanding their audience and sales. I would love to collaborate with a brand for the sole intention to make something awesome and give people an experience that they can take something away that is more than a product or service.

kalan strauss channel displaced nike collaboration

OCCI: Some of my favorite in the portfolio are the “Channel Displaced” works  – any plans to progress this series?

KALAN: definitely. So the channel displaced works, as you know, are all flat pieces that I hand paint. And I definitely do plan on doing more of those, but I am also working to expand it to the next step, which would involve light.


OCCI: Who are your biggest style & fashion inspirations right now?

KALAN: I use to be really into fashion, and I still have this really big admiration for it. However, I’ve been working on my pracitce so hard and I’ve been doing and learning so many things to do so, that I kind of tuned fashion out for the moment. I’m on this minimalistic comfort wave right now that is just basically wearing clothes for comfort while I pursue my art practice and try to bring it to the next level. I do however have this clothing rack in my studio with a bunch of blank white clothes hanging on it that I have been painting on every once in a while for fun. But it’s not really influenced by anything other than just what I think is cool or what I would like to see on a piece of clothing. I usually don’t even wear the pieces though haha.  


OCCI: What’s a memorable piece of advice a mentor has given you as an artist?

KALAN: I was talking to my favorite painting professor about paintings and the whole gallery representation thing. He told me that he isn’t a famous artist because he painted what and how he wanted to paint when he wanted to. Inste ad of establishing a certain style that you stick with for your entire career, he did what he wanted to.  He is seriously good, and got his MFA from Yale. Anyway, this  is for the most part true, because any artist you look at, you can distinguish who painted it just by looking at it. Example: KAWS isn’t painting landscapes, although we all know he could if he wanted to, and who knows, he probably does, for fun. But being a painter is like being a brand, and you’re creating products, if you want to live off of your art. You can create your products to sell, and then make what you want to make on the side. Of course there are exceptions, but it think that is a good piece of advice that really gets you thinking about art being a busines and business being an art.

kalan strauss anamorphic banana

OCCI: What’s the last played song on your Spotify / Apple Music / Streaming service?

KALAN: I’ve actually had 2 on repeat today, and that’s “I’m In Love” by Evelyn “Champagne” King and “Pyar Do Pyar Lo” by Sapna. I usually can’t stand 80s music, but I saw Khruangbin last night for a DJ set Pitchfork after party, and they played these two songs and god damn, they went so hard haha.


OCCI: You get (1) superpower – what is it and why?

KALAN: time travel for sure. With time travel,  comes knowledge of the truth. Plus I’m trying to see some dinosaurs.  

OCCI: Any plugs / places for fans to see your art this year?

KALAN: not yet. I’m working on getting my art to a place I’m satisfied with and then throwing my own shows. Planning for next summer or maybe the summer after that. So stay tuned because it’s going to be next level.

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