Big, Bold and on a Building: Q&A with Muralist, Journalist, Art Alum Kristin Farr
Kristin Farr is a Northern California-based painter and muralist who majored in Art at SF State. She was honored at Commencement in 2006, as the top graduate from the University’s College of Creative Arts. Her colorful, folk-art-inspired geometrics have shown at venues including Marrow Gallery in San Francisco, Bonifacio Global City Technology Center in the Philippines and the Outsidelands Festival in Golden Gate Park.
She founded KQED’s Art School web series, and when she is not painting, she is deputy editor for Juxtapoz magazine and curator for Facebook’s artist-in-residence program, where she invites artists to create installation artwork at the headquarter offices.
Gallery curator Heather Marx says that Farr “personifies the art-for-everyone aesthetic, a sense of the California rush, and represents a very generous and open practice." Farr (B.A., ’06) took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions about her successful career and how SF State influenced it.
How did you get into painting and design?
I've made art ever since I was little because I just can't help it. It's always been my outlet. When I started college, I was thinking about teaching art, and I did a little teaching while in school, and after that, I lucked into many art-related jobs that helped me find connections and support other artists, and be part of a community that also supports me as an artist.
Who were some of your professors and mentors at SF State?
Julia Marshall, the arts [education] professor. Leonard Hunter and Daniel Tiffany, my sculpture professors. Candace Crockett, my textiles professor, and Gus Vouchilas, my color and design professor.
You created KQED’s Art School video series. Can you briefly explain what it is and how it came about?
I worked at KQED for 12 years on different arts video productions, arts education projects and arts journalism. Art School was a web video series I came up with to make contemporary art accessible to anyone. You can learn about cool contemporary artists and their work, and they show you how to do a fun project. You can still watch all these videos on YouTube — search for KQED Art School. There’s one where I show you how to paint like me.
You’re also a journalist who writes for Juxtapoz magazine. What do you enjoy about interviewing and writing that's different from when you paint? Favorite artist interview?
I learn so much and always credit the privilege of interviewing any artist I want as a huge inspiration. It’s like getting another art degree, interviewing literally hundreds of artists for print and video. It’s also a creative process to research an artist, craft an interview and coax them into revealing their true personality, kind of like molding clay.
My favorite artist interview was David Shrigley, one of the best artists who is very funny. I also really love doing Juxtapoz cover stories on female artists. My newest one is about a painter named Toyin Odutola.
Many artistic students have a very school-oriented mindset during their time in college, doing art for assignments but then not knowing what to do once they graduate. Was this the case for you? What did you do to make progress on your personal work and career?
I had a lot of luck and encouragement from my boyfriend (now husband, fellow artist Jeff Meadows) soon after college ended. He was an artist, too, and he really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and go crazy, because it’s true that, after art school, without access to the textile and sculpture tools and labs, it was hard to build on what I’d started during my art program. I did a dual emphasis major in sculpture and textiles, and even though I mostly make paintings now, you can see the influence of 3D shapes and quilt patterns in my work.
I had my first show at a local bookstore by recommendation of the manager of my apartment building in San Francisco. A lot of artists lived in that building, and the neighborhood bookstore let us hang paintings high on the wall above the 8-foot bookshelves! I also started doing art reviews for KQED (where I had started as an intern) and other art sites, and that helped me get connected in the art community. One thing always leads to another.
Through all my various creative connections, I started out by showing paintings in that bookstore in 2008, and by 2014, I was in the Bay Area Now triennial exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, which felt like a big deal to me.
I owe many of my opportunities and connections as a painter and muralist to my Juxtapoz magazine family. I started working with them in 2010, and they’ve supported me a lot as both a writer and artist. KQED also led to many art opportunities, and in the last year, the Facebook artist-in-residence program has also given me new experiences as an artist and curator.
Any interesting anecdotes you’ve experienced during your career?
Yes I have lots of fun stories of painting murals in tropical locations, like when a storm blew through right as I finished a three-story mural in Manila, and yellow paint drips ran down the whole wall, and I had to fix it really quickly the next morning before running to the airport. The nice man driving the boom lift helped me paint.
Any advice for budding artists who have similar goals as you?
Get any art-related, part-time jobs you can find to support your art practice and make connections, and always be a gentleman or gentlewoman, which is what the great painter Chris Johanson told me. Another painter, Jim Hauser, said give away your first 100 paintings. I agree with all of this advice because it worked for me.
What are some of the coolest places your artwork has shown?
A jungle zoo in Taiwan, an Urban Outfitters in Hawaii, an elementary school in Massachusetts, Lafayette Park in Detroit — which was designed by Mies van der Rohe (who I learned about in a class at SFSU!) — Market Street in San Francisco, Berkeley Art Center, Dynamo Donuts, Pinterest offices, Nike offices and a bunch of other cool places and galleries.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your career so far?
All of it. It's all so mega-super fulfilling and rewarding, every single day. I feel very blessed and humbled by every art opportunity I’ve stumbled into. It is a huge privilege to have a platform to share my visual values and to meet so many other artist friends, and be part of this global art community, which is a very special and magical place if you carve out the right spot for yourself.
There are at least 10 teachers who have used my work as a painting lesson and shared images with me, which makes me want to cry from the intense, heartwarming feeling of seeing kids make their own art inspired by mine.
Current and future projects?
Got a big mural project coming up in San Jose next month, and I’m always continuing to paint my contemporary “hex sign” round paintings because they are made for good luck and protection, and the world needs a lot of that right now. My solo show of paintings at Marrow Gallery is just closing up this week, so I’ll start working on the next one for 2018.
How can people reach you and follow your work online?
IG and Twitter: @KristinFarr
— Gospel Cruz
Photo: Kristin Farr paints one of her signature “hex sign” paintings on a building. Photo courtesy of Daniel Weintraub.