Linda Kunik’s photographs hold nothing back. They are raw, sensuous and exciting, exploding with vibrant color.
Waiting for the right moment, when nature’s sun and the subjects’ skin line up perfectly, takes patience -- lots of patience. And when it’s all in alignment, when every curve is perfect, Linda ever so slowly pushes on the shutter release of her DSLR, so as not to disturb the scene she has cultivated.
And to think the subject matter I’m writing about here are photographs of tomatoes grown in Linda Kunik’s own backyard. But more about this later.
It’s interesting to note that photography was not something Linda focused on when she was growing up in Illinois. Born in Chicago, the family moved to the country near Bloomingdale when she was five. With five siblings, there were lots of mouths for her parents to feed. Linda helped out in the garden. It was while working in the family garden her love of nature bloomed and became a part of her. But more about that later.
And, photography was not on her radar when attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Even though Linda secretly loved dance, she earned her BA in Spanish and Psychology.
And photography was nowhere in sight after graduation when she worked as a Playboy Bunny at the Chicago Playboy Club for a short time. When asked to appear in the magazine, she graciously turned them down, because she was earning her master’s degree in Reading and Learning Disabilities, and appearing in the magazine just wouldn’t fit in. (Today, however, she shares that if her goal back then were to be an artist, she would have said ‘yes!’)
Once again photography was nowhere in sight when she became a Spanish language teacher, or when she married, or moved to Beverly Hills, or even after she had two daughters.
While Linda always appreciated art, and even worked as a docent at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, her own artistic side didn’t surface until after she observed how much her daughters loved their art classes at the Brentwood Art Center, and how good they were at it.
When the children were older, she found more time for other things. Linda pondered about the source of her children’s creativity. “I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, I wanted to make it.” Armed with the belief the artistic gene in her daughters came from her, she took art classes and discovered her drawing skills. Ellen King was her drawing teacher. “Ellen explained to me that drawing is a skill,” Linda shared, “but just because you have a skill doesn’t mean that you’re an artist.”
As her artistic side developed, Linda first painted in watercolors - landscapes and still life. But wanting to work more conceptually, she decided to go back to school to study conceptual art. (Unbeknownst to Linda, her interest in photography was soon to surface.)
She enrolled at the Otis College of Art and Design. It was a four-year program. She studied everything --theory, painting, printmaking, welding - and photography. Ultimately it was the photography courses that captivated Linda. “I liked looking through the lens with my painters’ eye, and playing with f/stops. I loved developing film and making prints. I was always thinking about texture, composition, line, theme and color.”
While studying at Otis, no one photographer caught Linda’s attention, until she discovered Edward Weston. “Weston looked at photography in a more abstract way, and not as a photo realist,” said Linda. After looking at Ansel Adams’ books, she was motivated to travel to Yosemite many times, and also concluded that Adams, like Weston, really was an abstract photographer. Linda now thought about her camera in a different way, and embraced abstract photography in her own way.
Linda figuratively returned to her youth, the family’s garden, and her love of nature. “I never forgot that ‘plants grow, farmers cultivate’.” In the back yard of her home she planted five gardens. She likes taking time, like the Italians and French, to enjoy what’s important in life. “I love sitting down in the garden with family and friends… to eat, to discuss and critique, and to create art out of nature’s fruit.”
Initially Linda took out her oils and painted the garden on canvas, but the result didn’t express the vision in her mind’s eye. So, she pulled out her Canon Rebel. “The results were awesome. I was really excited!”
Out of this creative vision came three photography projects, elements of each were on display during a recent solo exhibition at 1650 Gallery in Los Angeles: Plant It Forward – the starving artist project; Ripe, erotica found in big red tomatoes; and Juice, macro lens photography inside the flesh of ripped-apart tomatoes that challenges our perception.
Here’s how Linda defines ‘perception.’ “It’s taking the time to really look and see what we’re really looking at. We too often just let an image flash before our eyes, thinking we know what we see, when we actually don’t. I’m cultivating and capturing an image that I hope will have the viewer truly take time to investigate an image and appreciate what it reveals.”
Today, Linda Kunik is once again in transition. She’s now exploring abstract images in nearby forests and ranches -- her painter’s eye shaping the next phase in her photographic journey. “Bottom line, I’m a painter, and I see photography through a painter’s eye. I like getting in close to get that “ah ha” factor -- to create something that is not so easily recognizable, until it is.”
Oh, and those images that are raw, full of sensuality, and excitement -- you’ll just have to visit Linda’s website: www.lindakunik.com
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