by Kim Larson

Aunia Kahn is a multi-faceted creative entrepreneur and a globally awarded, collected, and exhibited figurative artist/photographer, published author, instructor, and inspirational speaker. She is also the owner of Rise Visible, a full-service creative digital marketing agency and Create for Healing.

Her work has been in over 300+ exhibitions in over 10 countries; at places such as San Diego Art Institute, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, iMOCA, St. Louis Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Mitchell Museum, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. She has also been a guest on podcasts like Entrepreneur on Fire, with 70 million downloads & 1 million monthly listens.

Aunia has curated several internationally recognized books and projects, including Silver Era Tarot, Inspirations for Survivors, Obvious Remote Chaos, Minding the Sea: Inviting the Muses Over for Tea, Avalanche of White Reason, XIII: The Art of Aunia Kahn, Witch’s Oracle and the Witch’s Oracle 2nd Edition, Moon Goddess (Modern Eden Gallery) exhibit, Tarot Under Oath (Last Rites Gallery), Lowbrow Tarot Project (La Luz De Jesus Gallery), etc. Her forthcoming projects include; An Epidemic of Retrospective, Disintegrating Stars, and the Ethereal Realms Tarot.

She loves Animals, Prussian blue, Psychology, Design, Miracles, Hummingbirds & Life.

ME: What is your background and how did you become an artist? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? 

AK: The strange this is that I never planned to be an artist even though it is something I have been passionate about since I was a kid. I just adored making something out of nothing. I loved to draw, write songs, and built elaborate tree forts. Yet, growing up the way I did, it never actually occurred to me that you could be a career artist or have a job in a creative field such as graphic design.

My other passion was psychology and mental health with a long-term career goal of being a therapist. However, when I was in college things changed dramatically with my health and rendered me unable to finish school. I reached into my love of art as a place of salvation while I struggled with being told I was crazy for over 18 years before I got my first diagnosis.

Overall, being an artist has saved my life in many ways. I was able to work through a lot of my pain and challenges with my creativity. I never planned to be an artist, but in my heart, I have always been a creator of my own world. I am just honored to be able to share that with others.


ME: You recently shifted your gallery works from digital artwork to traditional media. Is there any reason for this? Do you prefer one media over the other?

This has been such an epic moment in my life and also curious because as I moved from being a digital artist since 2004, into more traditional work in the last 2 years, so many other people are moving from traditional to digital. With the popularity of Procreate and NFTs, it is strange to be moving away from what seems to be the most popular art medium at this time.

Personally, I was unable to create traditional work over the years due to numerous rare diseases that made me allergic to just about everything - at one point I was even allergic to water and my own hair. I suffer from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and Dysautonomia. The allergic reactions are in large a part due to MCAS and the reactions ranged in severity and could be life-threatening so I did not want to risk it. This left me to do primarily digital art and from time to time small graphite drawings.

As a creative person, not being able to work with traditional mediums and get my hands into something tactile was heart-breaking at times. I craved to be able to touch paint. Also, for the majority of my career since 2004, digital art was frowned upon and not considered real art.

The great thing about digital is that I did have the opportunity to still be a creative artist in an alternative medium when years prior there was no access to those kinds of alternative opportunities for artists.

After finally getting a diagnosis for MCAS and treatment in 2018, I have healed a lot and became less reactive. I gave colored pencils a try in 2020 and then slowly moved into watercolors in 2021. It has been such a huge delight to be able to paint with a tactile medium.

I also love digital. I not only use it as a creative artist but it is part of my 25-year career as a web and graphic designer/digital marketer with my company Rise Visible. I am thankful for digital and I am also in awe of how many people have gone from hating it, banishing it from galleries and are now embracing it fully as a medium.  


ME: Where do your ideas come from?

Ideas over the years have changed as I have grown and changed, but the majority of my work had been focused on the trials and tribulations of my disease process, my challenging childhood, and being disconnected from the world. Before Covid, I was already isolated and had to wear masks. So it is strangely surreal living in a world where people have had to live as I have for the last 18 years.

My art is very visceral. I don't plan or think too much about it. I just go with the flow and feeling that I get. Often, whatever is going on in my life plays a huge role in my creativity. 

For example: We have a resident crow family that comes almost daily to visits us at my home. They have been spending a lot of time here the last couple of months. My newest artwork is called "Dreams of A Crow Queen" featuring one of the crows.

At times, it is a detriment to go with the flow and not do much planning due to having gallery shows with deadlines, but I often manage pretty well. Being in the vibe with my work is deeply important to my creative process.


 

ME: What is the goal of your art? What do you hope that viewers take away from the experience?

AK: The goal with my art is just to create the things that I love. I do not think I have ever made art to make a statement or create an impact. Although many people have said some of my work has been very challenging for the viewer or seemed to be activist based on the subject matter. For me, it is so personal that I do not think much about the impact.

I feel that if I focus on the viewer, I may get lost in something that feels artificial to me. I want to be raw and make things from my soul. If others love it, that is great! If others find deeper meaning, that is also awesome!

 

ME: What are you currently working on in the studio? 


AK: Right now I am working on artwork for the Mighty show with you guys, as well as I just finished artwork for Animal Spirits and Lonely Hearts at Stranger Factory. 

Also, I am spending a lot of time learning new mediums. It was very scary going from something (digital) I knew for 18 years, and then to move into a whole new medium (watercolors) - it was like starting all over as an artist. I had to learn everything from scratch.

I spend quite a lot of time learning, playing, and exploring my new mediums, surfaces, tools, etc. My Daniel Smith paint collection is a bit of an obsession and slightly out of control. I waited for many years to be able to paint! I want all the colors - I have about 2/3 of the Daniel Smith watercolor collection. I can truly identify with so many artists I have known through the years in their love of their mediums. To be able to go to an art store with greater intent or walk through my studio to select my paints, surfaces, and tools has been a beautiful experience I am grateful to have.

 

ME: What do you enjoy doing when you aren't making art?

AK: One of the things that I love doing is teaching classes. I run a website called Create for Healing and it is an educational website that focused on challenging topics such as depression, identity, and abuse. It is coupled with artwork, writing, and other creative expressive elements to help address and work through those difficult things using art with a supportive and therapeutic approach.

As a disabled female business owner in tech, another thing I am passionate about is bringing visibility to disability. We talk so much about DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and one group that is often left out but is the biggest group of marginalized individuals are those with disabilities because disabilities do not discriminate against race, age, income, etc. 

I also collect weird things and some may say too much art (no wall space or shelves). I expand on my home as a living piece of artwork, play with my dogs, feed my resident crow family and I enjoy spending time with my partner in crime and fellow artist extraordinaire Michael de Vena. 


ME: Who are your biggest influences?

AK: I am influenced by kids and anyone who is creating from authenticity. Every time I am asked that question, this is the answer that I always come back to even after I contemplate if it has changed over the years. I think kids are just so real and vulnerable in how they express themselves. They are so genuine. 

I am also in love with the Pre-Raphaelites. 


ME: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming/new artists?

AK: Being an artist is hard work and takes a lot of dedication, but there is just so much reward in using your creativity just for yourself, commercially or as a career artist. 

Don't let the likes, follows and social media nonsense get in the way of being you and creating what is in your soul. Social media plays such a huge impact on artists and their creativity. It causes anxiety and depression and can be hard. You are more than what social media feeds you. You have people that love and care for you and if you don't - I do. Keep on swimming! 

Remember, if you do what you love - others will love it too. It just takes time. Please don't give up your dreams. You are valued and so are your dreams!


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