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Local Artists Live: Chintia Kirana
June 13, 2020; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CDT
This weekend’s featured artist on Local Artists Live, Chintia Kirana, became an artist by way of natural curiosity and a strong desire to create, even from a very young age. Less poetically and more terrifyingly, she became a Montgomerian by way of escaping persecution in her native country of Indonesia. The experience of fleeing Indonesia as a child to seek refuge in America developed in Chintia a wisdom that, in real life as in art, there are similarities that connect us all, even through perceived differences.
Chintia recalls living through a terrifying political uprising in her early youth in Indonesia, and fleeing to America to ultimately arrive in Montgomery on Christmas Eve of 1999. Growing up, she experienced a comfortable life until the fall of President Suharto and the political uprising that followed. Chinese descendants in Indonesia were targeted by radical groups, resulting in looting, killing, and burning of property. Chintia remembers not being able to go to school because the streets were patrolled by those radical groups; on one occasion, a bus she was on had to change route because they had received news that another bus was taken over and the kids riding on it had been kidnapped. In addition to the uprising, tragedy struck her family; Chintia’s dad got malaria, her grandmother on her mom’s side passed away, and the economy tanked, resulting in her family losing everything. She remembers coming home day after day and seeing her mom selling their furniture; one by one everything was gone. They lost everything. Fortunately, they were to be able to flee and start over in the States.
Chintia relied on her artistic abilities as a means to communicate in this new place after arriving in Montgomery, and she recalls spending her teenage years learning to speak English by watching the Disney Channel and MTV. She considers herself fortunate to have received formal training in the visual arts while attending Booker T. Washington Magnet High School. After graduating from BTW in 2005, Chintia continued her creative pursuits at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she earned her MFA in Painting and Drawing. In 2016, she relocated her studio back to Montgomery, where she happily continues to reside today.
One of Chintia’s former professors and a continued mentor for her, Najjar Abdul-Musawwir has told her, “In simplicity you’ll find profoundness.” She has continued to live and work to achieve this sage-like mindset, and it is certainly reflected through her art. Read on below to find out more about Chintia Kirana, her art and processes, and her ideas on how an engaged community has the power to bring about great transformation.
Left: Chintia Kirana, In Time, 2013, eggshells
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is your favorite thing about living in the south?
I get to see my parents more often and I do not have to shovel snow!
What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?
Um…this one question could get political quite fast. The pursuit of exploration, exchange, and experimentation in Montgomery’s artistic community is quite slow compared to those in bigger cities. This could very well be due to the limited funding and philanthropic entities to support and encourage local artists. With that said, I am thrilled to see artists taking matters into their own hands by starting groups and creating their own opportunities. I am also excited to see the efforts of arts institutions, such as the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, to engage members and patrons. Artists are typically motivated and would never stop making their work–what we need is more support from patrons to fund artistic explorations, perhaps art in public spaces. More programming and access to arts in our city would help push forth the growth of the artistic community.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
A piece called In Time is one of my favorites. It is made of eggshells and typically hung with microfilaments. The shape and size are created according to its space. I enjoy this piece due to its simplicity and its symbiotic complexity. It is very labor-intensive from start to finish. In the end, the piece became a monument of time passed. Some other favorites would be the Inside Out Project with JR, Expose Art, and MAP, perhaps because this is still fresh in my mind. I’d like to add The Inside Out project would not have been possible without the community stakeholders such as the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Montgomery Biscuits, Alabama Power, and many more! It was a beautiful journey, to be able to connect and showcase an accurate portrait of Montgomery today, a community of individuals who are loving, intelligent, passionate, creative, and evolving together. This project reminds us that the power to transform exists within each of us; that an engaged loving community is the way forward.
What is your favorite work of art from the MMFA’s collection, and what specifically about the artwork speaks strongly to you?
Edward Hopper’s New York Office. I enjoy his composition and use of shadows to create and extend the mystery within this painting. I love the simplicity and stillness—It is quiet but not silent.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in the moment?
One of my favorite pieces is from the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. I saw his piece One and One Makes Three in San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy. The piece consists of a dozen suspended mirrors. On the back of the pieces, the phrase Love Difference is written in different languages. The viewers are able to be in the center of the piece. When I entered the piece, my infinite reflection became a part of the art, thus bringing art and life together. It was also an allegory of how similar we are on the inside despite our ethnicity, cultural and religious differences.
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
I am a bit of a nomad with a gypsy spirit. It’s very hard to pinpoint a preferred location because each place and space brings different experiences. I love being in New York and Paris (mais mon Francais est terrible!). In the future, I’d love to visit (perhaps even reside in) a monastery in Nepal or Tibet.
What drives your creativity?
Freedom—the freedom to create without boundaries or restrictions.
What is your preferred medium?
I tend to be very minimal with mediums and typically they are things accumulated over the years such as eggshells, ashes, and carbon build-up. I love the idea of rebirth, of deconstruction and reconstruction of materials. Objects and materials are embedded with meaning, therefore the materials used typically depend on the content of the work I’m creating. I’m not a purist by any means; I enjoy exploring and experimenting with different media. Oftentimes, the challenge is finding resources to do the work. For example, before the pandemic, I had started exploring glass blowing at a friend’s studio in Macon, GA. I truly enjoy the property of glass, how it can be both liquid and solid. Sadly, I only made three glass blown eggs before the lockdown. Another “to do” on the list!
Do you listen to any particular music when you create?
I do! The music depends on the mood in the studio. My playlist includes Bach, Philip Glass, Iannis Xenakis, Ben E. King, Bill Withers, Art School Girlfriend, Mumford & Sons, The Weeknd, and many more!
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
Life as an artist is not easy; nothing worth doing is easy. Remember to stay true to who you are and your work.