artist carlotta kohl doesn’t want to be labelled
The German born, U.S. based artist on 70s porn, the power of social media, and the perils of being pigeonholed.
From her candy coloured dreamscapes to her intimate portraits of close female friends, Carlotta Kohl's work touches on all things girl. The daughter of two creatives, art has always been in Carlotta's blood, but it wasn't until she moved to Long Island that the German-born, Paris-raised beauty finally found her calling studying fine art. Frustration with her photography course eventually led her to discover the medium of sculpture, and she soon began working on a series of wax paintings. However, that's not to suggest that she's abandoned the medium of photography entirely, in fact with her intimate approach to her subjects and her dreamy, girlish aesthetic she's fast becoming one to watch within the fashion industry, having shot editorials for the likes of Jalouse and L'Officiel Paris. Exploring themes of sex, nudity, and the female form in a variety of different media, Carlotta's work ultimately seeks to unpick the many facets of the female experience. Here we talk to the artist about the power of social media and the perils of being pigeon holed when it comes to her art.
Tell me a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I was born in Germany and moved to Paris shortly after. My parents were concerned I'd be raised around too many museums so we moved to Long Island. I love dachshunds, disco, doughnuts and alliteration.
Did you always want to be an artist?
I've always expressed myself creatively. At a young age I knew undoubtedly that this was the path I was going to take. My parents are very creative and art was always something of great importance in my family.
How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
Cotton candy, innocent, sexual, dark, Michelle Pfieffer in Scarface.
Do you view your sculpture and photography as being part of the same outlet or do your approach each practice differently?
I went to school for photography and planned on it being my profession. As time went on I got frustrated with my work. I felt somewhat detached from what I was making. I wanted to feel that connection and assert my voice. The encaustic medium really helped me get through this. When I make these paintings it's a very private experience. I'm alone. I'm out in Long Island in a garage. With the wax being such a temperamental medium I find myself having to make quick decisions and even then I don't have full control. You relinquish control and figure out how to get it back. It's this ebb and flow that makes it exciting. I'm always learning something new about the medium. it's a very cathartic experience using your hands to make something. Every stroke, spill is yours. You have complete ownership.
Who or what inspires you?
Centrefolds, vintage typography, 70s porn posters, fallen idols, Erica Jong, Balthus, nature, The Story of the Eye, going to the movies.
Why the preoccupation with the female form?
It's honestly what I'm drawn to. I find it tantalising, alluring and seductive.
What is the significance of nudity within your work?
I'm exploring the themes of sex, desire, and objectification. I'm obsessed with nudity and what it can mean. What makes something naked or nude, pure or sexual? I find this dialectic fascinating and something I've been drawn to at a very early age. My mother was frequently the subject in Helmut Newton's work and growing up with those images, seeing my mother transformed into this strong sexual woman made me really comfortable with the idea of sex and sexuality.
Feminism has become part of the cultural conversation in a way it has never before, why do you think this is?
Social media. There's no middleman deciding who the tastemakers are anymore. Social media gives women a platform to talk about their issues and gives the masses the ability to connect with them directly. I have friends that have built their careers off of social media. It can really put the power in the hands of the artist. As creatives isn't that what we all want?
How do you feel about feminist art becoming a "trend"?
It's tricky. I find myself being labelled a feminist artist. I am a feminist. I'm an artist. But my work doesn't set out to be feminist. I don't want to be put in a box. I feel like some artists are using feminism as a tool to attract people to their art. It has become an aesthetic, something "cool" to entice people. In my opinion we have to be careful that the actual message of feminism is not being diluted. However, the recent popularity of feminist art is amazing! It's bringing awareness to important issues and creating conversation which is something I fully support.
What's the bravest thing you can do as a young person?
Be honest. Speak your truth. Create for yourself, not for others.
What's the best thing about being a girl in 2016?
I can only speak from my experience because my reality is different than others. I would say opportunity. There is more opportunity for women now that there has ever been in history.
Text Tish Weinstock