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12 Questions: Kassandra Palmer

Artist Bio

Kassandra Palmer (b. 1991) was born in Fairfield, CA and raised in Green Bay, WI. She earned her B.S. in physics from Santa Clara University (2013) and her MFA in painting and drawing from the University of Iowa (2018). She has exhibited nationally, and most recently had solo exhibitions at CVA Wausau (2023); at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (2020); and at the Overture Center for the Arts (2020). Palmer has been represented by James May Gallery since 2019.Kassandra Palmer lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin.

Artist Statement

I make paintings and drawings that are intuitive, intimate and imbued with paradox.

Working from memory and imagination, I combine symbolic forms to create landscapes, portraits, and abstractions that point toward psychological and metaphysical themes.

In my most recent body of work, I have drawn conceptual inspiration from my background in physics and from my experience of being a new mother in an era of pandemic. Imagery of butterflies, profiles in silhouette, moons, homes, trees and wood grain focus on themes of interiority and metamorphosis.

My main purpose in painting and drawing is to study interactions of time, symbol, story, relationship, and nature.

Additional areas of influence include (but are not limited to): tall tales and myths, improbable truths, believable lies, interspecies friendships, sentience, ghost stories, telepathy, untold/forgotten histories, emotion, touch, and the woods and water of the Upper Midwest.

When I am making, I try to leave room for the survival of the unexpected.

1.What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

I’m more of a moving pictures kind of gal, but interestingly, the ones I have seen the most are both also books I love: Contact, by Carl Sagan and The Princess Bride.

2. What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m planning on simplifying my practice by spending the next couple of years painting on wooden panels that are shaped like heads…so the next step is to cut out those shapes.

3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

Failure is the heart of my work. No painting without pain! Almost everything I’ve ever made is a failure in some regard…but there’s also an aspect of my style of making that seems to require failure, so that there can be a repair.

To that end, my favorite failure in my life is also one of my first memories of loving painting. It was Halloween in the early nineties, I was 3 or maybe 4. It was the first Halloween where I was super super excited, and my plan was to be a blue sparkle princess (I’m just going to say it, I was the original Elsa, and Disney ripped me off). That evening, with more enthusiasm than my body could contain, I raced out of daycare and slipped on ice, landing on my head. I had bloody wounds all up and down the sticking out parts of my face. The wounds hurt physically, but more so emotionally and aesthetically. To add insult to injury, I was informed that my costume’s visual integrity would be further compromised by a coat and mittens. I was devastated on multiple levels. Seeing my despair, my mom got the idea to camouflage my wounds by painting stars on my face with lipstick and eyeshadow. A genius move, and to this day, when a painting in free fall, I always slap a few stars on to see if that doesn’t turn things around.

4.What is your most unusual habit?

I eat popcorn for dinner at least 3 times a week.

5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Joan Brown. I love how honest and funny and intimate and direct and insightful her paintings feel.

6.What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office? What is your studio like?

Papermate sharpwriter pencils (sponsor me). My studio is always a little chaotic. BFHE: Big Fire Hazard Energy.

7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

Honestly, it’s not probably the healthiest habit, but I do tend to lean into the funk. Often I get out of it by having an idea when I’m in between asleep and awake, so maybe there is some function to exhausting myself. My favorite questions to ask myself are questions Laurie Anderson advises artists to ask themselves:

1. Is it complicated enough?

2. Is it simple enough?

3. Is it crazy enough?

4. Is it beautiful enough?

5. Is it stupid enough?

8. Who/What influences your work?

I let a lot in. I’m really interested in making metaphors and connections between nature and human nature. My biggest interests are tall tales and myths, improbable truths, believable lies, interspecies friendships, sentience, ghost stories, telepathy, untold/forgotten histories, emotion, touch, and the woods of the Upper Midwest.

9. Do you collect anything?

I collect a lot of art. Trading work with artists is one of my favorite things about making art. I consider it a real privilege to live with so many beautiful things touched and crafted by people I admire.

10. What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

Worry less. Travel more. Stop eating so much gluten.

11. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?

Having children. I think I had internalized a lot of really toxic beliefs about parenthood and art making being incompatible. My studio practice is healthier and more interesting than it’s ever been since having kids. With a quiet ten minutes, I can do almost anything now. My beliefs about what kind of time and space is required to make good art have totally loosened, and that’s been a really freeing thing for me.

12. Share an inspiring image.

Kassandra Palmer is a part of our current group exhibition: New Beginnings at our new Milwaukee location and on ARTSY

James May Gallery | 2201 N Farwell, Milwaukee, WI | 262-753-3130

Please continue to support us by visiting us in person at our new location: 2201 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee or check out our Artsy page.

Feel free to contact us: 262-753-3130


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