Kimia Ferdowsi Kline is one of the very first artists I had the pleasure to interview at the beginning of my blogging and whose inspiring work I have followed ever since. Currently, along with continuing devoting herself to her painting, she has also taken the challenge of the job of art curator at Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn. Housed in a renovated 1901 factory building on the Williamsburg waterfront, Wythe Hotel is a combination of old school and modernist, effortless coolness, and the art showcased here only enhances its visual impact. If you have ever come across, and I am sure you have, the lack of interest and effort that usually goes into this part of hotel decorating, you can certainly appreciate why it takes an artist of Kimia’s talent to take this experience to a new level. I have recently caught up with Kimia on the ideal combination of her own studio work and her job, about the satisfaction of finding her own place in the art world and about what is so special about New York City that it influences her life so differently than the rest of the places she has lived in.
Besides your painting and drawing, you are now also curating the permanent art collection at Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn. Tell me a little about your job.
I’m the curator of the permanent art collection at Wythe Hotel. We have 70 rooms and plan to fill each of them with the original work of emerging and established artists. I get to visit artists in their studios, talk with them about what they make and why, and then purchase pieces for the Hotel. Sometimes this means purchasing a final painting or photograph, and other times it means purchasing a sketchbook or unfinished remnant of the creative process, and framing these bits and pieces to hang in the rooms. I also organize the opening exhibits we have for our artists, which is kind of like running a mini gallery inside the Hotel.
How do you balance your own art and the time you spend in your studio with your job?
I’m lucky because these two aspects of my work fit together pretty seamlessly. As a painter, I constantly meet other artists, attend shows, etc.. This connection with my artistic community opens doors into my curatorial work at the Hotel. At the same time, a flexible schedule at the Hotel allows me to continue my studio practice and make my own work. The combination of these two roles is ideal, so really I look at both jobs as one and the same. In the end it doesn’t feel like balancing because they don’t feel different.
Limoncello, by Kimia Kline
I find a hotel room a very tricky terrain to exhibit art. From my experience, the photographs or painting reproductions that often hang on the walls of hotel rooms are bland, if not totally uncomforting, and many times set off the balance of the space. How do you (and how challenging is to) choose the art for the hotel? What is the atmosphere you are aiming for?
A big part of what I look for is the ability of our guests to connect to the creative process of the artist and have access to the story behind how the work is made. We collect a mix of final pieces, but also the sketches that go into making them. Recently we have been purchasing the sketchbooks of artists, and taking them apart to frame as final pieces. Unlike most hotels, the work we hang in each room is different and original. There’s an authenticity and individuality to the work, and I think guests feel this when they come to stay with us.
How do you source the art you are curating?
I go to as many openings and galleries as I can. I also personally know a lot of artists because I’m a painter. Artists are always sharing names and work with each other, so I have a pretty steady stream of art to look at and think about. I also get a lot of submissions and always take the time to look and see if the work is the right fit for the Hotel.
Julia Clift, Wythe Hotel
Caitie Moore, Wythe Hotel
Left: Carrie Schneider / Right: Wilmot Kidd, Wythe Hotel
What do you love the most about your job?
I love and deeply admire the people I work with and for. It’s an incredible thing to come to work and feel like you’re home. And then also get to buy art.
Since its opening, Wythe Hotel has garnered a strong local following, capturing the neighbourhood’s hip factor and creating a unique hotel experience. Describe the attraction of and the aesthetic at Wythe Hotel.
It’s a beautiful combination of old and new. The building is a factory from the early 1900s, so we have exposed brick, arched windows, and big California yellow pine beams. At the same time, there’s also radiant-heated concrete floors and mint green side tables, so there’s a strong industrial aesthetic paired with the romance and charm of an old factory. I think the attraction is both in terms of the beautiful design, but also in regards to the people that work there. The Hotel is owned and staffed with really smart, creative, genuine individuals, and I think this more than anything leaves guests wanting to return again and again.
Are there guests of the hotel who express a further interest in the works of the artists present there? Can Wythe Hotel serve as a platform for emerging artists?
We have lots of guests ask questions about the artwork hanging in the rooms, as well as in the public spaces. I think it’s certainly fair to say that Wythe Hotel is a platform for emerging artists.
Apple Picking, by Kimia Kline
Tell me about your painting at the moment.
Lately I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration from my father’s stories about his childhood garden in Tehran: a walled enclosure full of pomegranate trees and a pool in the center. I’m not able to visit Iran due to religious persecution and the execution of my grandfather in 1982, so I’ve established a connection with this ghost homeland through recreating these garden paradises. The paintings become arenas for experience–a way to participate in a time and place I’m barred from otherwise. The figures are often self-portraits and act as a way of inserting myself into these memories and stories. The landscapes are purposefully detached from a literal appearance of nature because the paintings are reconstructed, flattened spaces, based on imagination and invention, and the collective memory of my family.
Shiraz Morning, by Kimia Kline
I have noticed the garden as a recurrent theme in your most recent paintings. Where does this interest originate from?
I lived in India from 2011 to 2012 and became familiar with the garden design known as “Chahar Bagh”,which literally means “Four Gardens”, This garden layout is originally Persian and was brought to India during the Mughal dynasty. Because my family is originally from Iran, I felt a special interest and connection to these gardens, especially in light of the stories I grew up hearing about my father’s garden as a child. So over time they slowly began to enter my work in a significant way.
A Courtyard, by Kimia Kline
How does New York City influence you artistically differently than all the rest of the places you have lived in from all over the world?
Because New York is the center of the art world, I’m constantly seeing really excellent work–and this inspires me to work harder and try to close the gap between my artwork and the artwork of the legends I admire. None of the other places I’ve lived have filled me up with so much energy, and I think that’s really what’s influenced me most in this City.
One thing you can’t start your work day without:
What makes you happy at the end of the day?
A lot of people told me it was unrealistic and irresponsible to pursue a career in art. So at the end of most days I guess I’m just really happy I proved them wrong, and now get to do the work I love in my favorite city.
Pink Garden, by Kimia Kline
photos: 1-Wythe Hotel, the rest of the photos courtesy of Kimia Kline / 2 & 8-11: Kimia Kline paintings / 4,6-photos by Lauren Wells / 5,7-photos by Kimia Kline