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Local Artists Live: Tony Khounmano
June 26, 2021; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CDT
Alabama artist Tony Khounmano aims to create art that is an extension of the simple beauty and aesthetic of the natural world. Though he dabbles in a variety of media, he focuses largely on oils, painting landscapes, portraits, and non-objective explorations. Tony grew up in Decatur, and is the son of Southeast Asian immigrants who allowed their children to grow in the duality of both Asian and American cultures. Being given that freedom to explore deeply informs Tony’s art—as he sees it, combined experiences create “a greater gestalt of culture and growth.”
Tony experienced art in school during his youth, but his introduction to classical art and the commencement of his exploration as a focused artist began at Calhoun Community College, then was later cultivated at the University of Montevallo, where he pursued his Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in drawing. Though he spent a brief period considering a path in corporate graphic design, Tony’s passion for life is best communicated through free form abstract or landscape renderings. “Today, my art is simply a study of life and an expression of emotion stemming from that study. It provides an outlet for my soul to sing.”
To learn more about Tony’s art and passions, continue reading below, and don’t miss his Local Artists Live feature on the MMFA’s Instagram page from 10–10:30 AM on June 26, 2021.
Above: Tony Khounmano, Absolution, 2020, oil on Canvas, 18″ x 22″
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is something you appreciate about life in the South?
Although there’s a mild variance in sincerity, Southerners truly don’t mind saying hello or simply talking in public. I’ve visited many cities across the states, but the stereotypical “Southern Hospitality” is truly a wonderful expression of the South’s culture and air of wistful relaxation.
What are some works of art in the MMFA’s collection that inspire you and why?
I recently had the distinct pleasure of participating in an ArtTalk over web call, and Sunny Paulk displayed the beautifully whimsical piece Classy. While perhaps not a part of the collection itself, I’d put forth that the community forwarded by MMFA’s programs is just as much of a collection to be celebrated as its interiors. The entirety of ArtTalk was a wonderful display of community, joy, and respect that I had not known I’d lost after leaving scholastic art, and such encouragement is an amazing treasure.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
I’ve several media outlets for art, so it’s difficult to truly pick a favorite; but, if I had to choose an expression of my personality that’s apt in my art it would be the graphite drawing My Love is a Bootylicious Blue Fish, which was an illustration from college via word prompts. It’s got my typical graphite precision work, but also an expression of the whimsy and joy in which I view life, juxtaposed by the also art-nouveau fancy framing.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art?
As an appreciator of several forms and media, I also have several favorites within; but choosing two of my top favorites for their expression and aesthetic would be Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and the fanciful exaggeration that is Looking Down Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt. Both have a wonderful variance of contrast and hue, but in different spectrums: dark and brooding for Hopper’s piece; bright and hopeful for Bierstadt’s. They’re pretty much a summation of the yin and yang sides of my personality when it refers to art aesthetics.
What drives your creativity?
To be short: life. Living life and the cumulative experience of it expresses myself in varied forms with my art; on one end of the spectrum, I’ll delve into directly-representational fantasy art as mnemonic for my daydreams of stories running through my head. And on the other end, I’ll let my subconscious mind play in the chaos of hue, value, form, and composition as an analog for my emotion and passion. Two voices forming duality of my psyche.
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
Don’t stop. Put what you can to paper and don’t be dejected if it’s only a few lines. Save everything you can at first: don’t throw away art because you don’t think it’s good at the time. Looking back at pieces in the future informs how much progress you’ve made in the interim. Explore outside your comfort zone. Find an artist completely different from your style and try new techniques! Sometimes you’ll find wonder in places you least expect.
What excites you the most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene, and how might we further these efforts throughout our community?
Honestly, I’ve missed sincere exploration and discussion from fellow artists. Especially with the dynamic CHARACTER of all the artists within the South. There are artists who have explored joy and whimsy and brightness, and there are artists who have characterized hardship, pain, and perseverance. All the artists I’ve seen not only in Montgomery but all over the South have stories light, dark, and heavy to tell. I’ve enjoyed the exposition as well as the kindness and honesty of most of the community, and I look forward to integrating with such a wonderful community.