Yeah, I like the sound of that. I first met Kat Kiernan as a photographer, and through working with her on a few projects, I got to know more about her, her gallery, and her commitment to giving emerging photographers like herself a platform for experience and exposure. She is as hard-working and arts-minded as they come, so basically, I'm in love with her.
She has done some really interesting and forward-thinking programs in the two years since opening The Kiernan Gallery and has plenty more up her sleeve. She has been kind enough to share some of her awesomeness with us. . .
Crusade for Art: Why did you want to start a gallery?
Kat Kiernan: When I graduated with my BFA in photography, I was surprised at how many of my peers were graduating without having been in an exhibition outside of their thesis show. Of course there were those who had been exhibiting a bit elsewhere, but they were the minority. By the time I graduated I had a handful of juried shows and publications on my resume. Participation in these shows gave me the valuable experience of thinking about my work beyond the critique wall. Editing work for submissions, framing, and shipping are vital components of being an exhibiting artist. These exhibitions taught me to think about my portfolio as a final product, from shooting to packaging and delivery.
I wanted to create a gallery for emerging artists like myself and my peers to gain these experiences. I also wanted to present the work of emerging artists to highly respected artists, curators, and editors to help foster connections and further careers.
C4A: What adaptations or model changes have you made since you first opened?
KK: The Kiernan Gallery has been open for two years and has grown quite a lot in that short time. A few months after opening we started a blog to highlight the Juror’s and Director’s Choice winners of each show, interview jurors, and share our thoughts and ideas on the business of being an artist.
More recently, we have begun exhibiting solo shows in conjunction with each of our group shows. Three times per year we also hold calls for non-photographic artists to submit their work for a solo exhibition. These non-photographic shows broaden our base of patrons, some of whom would not normally consider themselves to be collectors of photography. They come in to see abstract paintings, for example, and often walk away with a better appreciation for abstract photography.
I am most excited about our pop-up studio salons. Twice a year we convert an artist’s studio into a gallery of their work for a one-night celebration of their art. My goal is to combine the energy of an opening reception, the excitement of meeting the artist, and a behind-the-scenes experience of a studio visit into one event. Meeting the artist, spending time in their workspace, and, when possible, seeing how the work was made, creates a connection between patrons and artists that would not exist otherwise. More importantly, these events help build a collecting community for that artist in their own area. This is a project that we hope to expand in the future.
C4A: Tell us about your upcoming publication. What is it, why is it, what are the goals for it?
KK: In the beginning of September, The Kiernan Gallery will launch Don’t Take Pictures, a biannual print & tablet-ready magazine. Don’t Take Pictureswill feature six artists per issue who have previously exhibited in The Kiernan Gallery in addition to book reviews and articles on art business.
The title, Don’t Take Pictures, is a reference to the language of photography. Over the years the term “taking pictures” has been replaced with “making pictures.” This publication focuses on the creative process involved in the making of photographs.
In addition to the magazine itself, each month one of the six featured artists will have one of their images for sale exclusively through the gallery. Each image is roughly 6x9, signed, numbered in an edition no higher than five, and has a sale price no higher than $200. This work can be purchased exclusively through magazine’s website. The full amount of the sale goes to the artist.
C4A: Tell us about your mission and why it was important to you to take this route (showing unrepresented photographers).
KK: I believe that there are some extremely talented emerging artists in photography today, but some of them are not yet ready for representation. Maybe they have only one body of work or are still building their exhibition history, but the work they do have is very good and deserves to be seen.
The majority of artists that we exhibit do not have representation. Our calls for work are a good way for me to find emerging talent. I keep a list of photographers who have participated in our group exhibitions whose work I would like to show more of. These artists are taken into consideration for solo exhibitions, pop-up studio salons, and future issues of Don’t Take Pictures.
C4A: How has your experience as an emerging photographer shaped your vision for The Kiernan Gallery?
KK: The fact that I am an emerging photographer myself is intertwined with everything The Kiernan Gallery does. I created this gallery for artists who, like myself, are just beginning their exhibiting careers. True to this mission, I do not allow the gallery to do anything that I would not want to participate in myself. I think the strongest example of this is our commission policy: The Kiernan Gallery does not take commission on works sold from our group shows. We believe that if artists are paying a submission fee, the gallery should not also take a portion of the sale. We take a commission (30%) only on work from solo artists who have been invited and have not paid a submission fee.
When selecting jurors, I look for people who are interested in the work of emerging artists and may have opportunities for them. For example, Christopher James juried both of our alternative process exhibitions. He liked some of the images so much that he included them in the upcoming edition of his textbook. Vicki Goldberg juried our most recent Portfolio Showcase and wrote a few paragraphs on the work of each selected artist, one of whom is now including this review in his upcoming book.