Artist Interview: Anita Kunz

by Kim Larson February 01, 2014

Canadian by birth, Anita Kunz has lived in London, New York and Toronto, and has been widely published in Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Canada, South Africa, Holland, Portugal, France and England. Her work has been featured in Time magazine, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, GQ, The New York Times, Sony Music, Random House Publishing and many others. Her work has also been published on many magazine covers including Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Newsweek Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times Magazine, and on more than fifty book jacket covers.

We had a chance to talk with Anita about her works for Feral Creatures group exhibition curated by Stephanie Chefas, now on view at the gallery.

(Detail of Kangaroo)

ME: What was your initial reaction to the theme of "Feral Creatures" and from where did you draw inspiration for this show?

AK: I've always been a huge animal lover. And I think that because we share so much genetic material with other creatures we can compare and identify behavioural patterns in ourselves that negatively affect our very survival.  So I'm interested in the wild animal aspect in both ourselves and other animals. But I also volunteer with animal groups, in particular helping feral cats that live in my city.

ME: Do you have any wild animal stories?

AK: We have a cabin in the Canadian wilderness and there are many deer, moose, beavers, wolves and other gorgeous animals that we see. I don't have any negative stories, quite the opposite. I love being up north and start to feel depressed when I'm in the city too long.


ME: What is your art process?

AK: I work with watercolour and acrylic on illustration board. I worked for many years as a magazine illustrator and so I was accustomed to working very quickly and making strong idea driven work. But now that I'm focussing mainly on personal work,  I don't have to make pictures that are as didactic. I can make art that's more ambiguous and allow for more self expression and free form drawing.

ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting / making art?

AK: I love the outdoors and anything to do with nature. I spend time in the woods in the summer and in the snow and ice in the winter! I swim and hike in the summer and cross country skin and snowboard in the winter. Plus I use any excuse to travel. I've been fortunate to have lectured and taught workshop in many countries, so I've been able to see a bit of the world. I think travel is absolutely the best education.


ME: What artists most inspire you (alive or dead)?

AK: There have been so many throughout my career….early on I was very inspired by artists such as Sue Coe and Marshall Arisman. And there are so many amazing young artists now. But my perennial favourite has to be Ralph Steadman.

Articles about Anita's work have appeared in Graphis and Novumgebrauchsgrafik magazines (Switzerland), Communication Arts and Step by Step magazine (USA), Idea, Illustration and Creation magazines (Japan), Applied Arts (Canada), Nuvo (Canada) and The Design Journal (Korea).

From 1988 to 1990 she was chosen by Rolling Stone magazine to produce a monthly illustrated History of Rock 'n Roll end paper. 

Anita frequently teaches workshops and lectures at universities and institutions internationally including the Smithsonian and the Corcoran in Washington DC. Her summer workshops have been conducted at the Illustration Academy in Sarasota Florida, and at the Masters of Art degree program at Syracuse University. She is currently a faculty member of The Art Department, the on-line art academy.

She has been honored with many prestigious awards and medals and her works are in the permanent collections at the Library of Congress, the Canadian Archives in Ottawa, the McCord Museum in Montreal, the Musée Militaire de France in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome and in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. 

In 1987 she showed a collection of her works at Canada House in Trafalgar Square London. In 1997 she had a one woman show at the Foreign Press office in New York City, in 1998 she had a solo show at the Creation Gallery in Tokyo, and the Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration mounted a mid-career retrospective of her work in the fall of 2000. She has also had solo shows at the Govinda Gallery in Washington DC and more recently at the Art Institute of Boston.

In the fall of 2003 she was the first woman and the first Canadian to have a solo show at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. 

ANITA KUNZ, O.C., D.F.A.In spring of 2007 Anita gave a presentation about her NewYorker covers at the prestigious TED conference in Monterey California.

In 1997 she received the Les Usherwood Lifetime Achievement Award from the Advertising and Design Club of Canada. 

Anita has been named one of the fifty most influential women in Canada by the National Post newspaper. 

In 2011 she was one of 100 artists invited to design an image for Google Chrome. That same year she was part of a collection of work curated by Lady Gaga for Polaroid, shown at the Phillips de Pury Gallery in New York.

She has recently received an honorary doctorate from the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto.

She has been made an Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor.
In 2012 she received The Queen's Jubilee Medal of Honour.


Kim Larson
Kim Larson

Kim Larson is the Gallery Director and Co-Owner at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco's historic North Beach neighborhood. Opened in June 2010, the gallery features monthly exhibitions of established and emerging artists. The gallery's contemporary aesthetic ranges from realism to surrealism with a strong focus on illustrative painting and representational sculpture. She is a pround member of the San Francisco Art Dealers Association and the current Director of North Beach First Fridays. Her passion for art started at a young age and continues today with her private art collection.

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