We had the good fortune of connecting with K. Daphnae Koop and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi K. Daphnae, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
This is the question I am drawn to answer, and at the same time, the question I feel most awkward about answering. My time and focus are spent on the creation of my art, which is largely a solitary pursuit. And still, I believe the work I do helps to better the world. Much of this benefit has to do with the invisible; with notions of the collective consciousness; and with using social media to use my voice in a larger sphere. I believe we are all affected, deeply and profoundly, by what we as a collective know and think, and that we can affect this collective knowing by creating a particular presence or stance within it. That is the work I am actively engaged in. My paintings on carved wood are created using largely cast off or ignored materials. Re-presented and made magnificent with the addition of carving, painting and the assemblage of materials, the beauty hidden in the roughness of my materials is revealed and honored. Each time I finish a piece, I believe I have brought a bit of light back into a world that was growing dull by the discounting. My thoughts about my work are often metaphoric, and my titles reflect that. Two current series I am working on are excellent examples: Beholden to the Beauty of the World combines pigments and Chinese Joss paper with objects from nature that would ordinarily be trodden underfoot. They are elevated and restored to their full magnificence in these pieces, mirroring the restoration granted when a second chance is given. But Trailing Clouds of Glory Do We Come places a single stone in a square of carved wood. The piece is painted to reflect and glorify the striations and inclusions in the stone, reflective of the magnificence of spirit within each of us that is so often dimmed by our humanness, but that still shines out through our eyes. Recognizing the spirit in all things, and representing it through color, texture and materials, is really the underlying theme of all of my work. Which brings me to the social media aspect of my work – I post images of my work, and often include writing with the images. My words are carefully chosen to support what unites us all, and my writings, coupled with my images, offer a voice of love and light in the midst of all of the discord. There is, especially currently, such intense focus on political, economic and social divides. In both my painting and my written work, I look beyond those concerns and acknowledge the soul of the observer, and the spirit common in all of us.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
So many people think that creating art is all about talent and inspiration. That has not been so for me. I believe that the discipline of art, the putting in the time, is what has enabled me to build the body of work I have created. One idea provides a glimpse into the next idea and the next, which is a big part of how the creative process keeps flowing for me, but if I don’t put in the time to complete the idea at hand, it will stagnate and that flow will slow or stop. My hope as an artist has always been to create what is truly my own work. A great deal of experimentation and failure has gone into creating the foundation of the art I am now doing, but I am so happy with the work I am creating, and my unique mix of materials – mixed media paints on carved wood with shattered glass and found object inlay – results in paintings that have an elegance and strong presence – and that truly don’t look like anyone else’s. Being an artist is not easy – much of my creative process is hard work and definitely not glamorous. Building and carving take up a great deal of time, and the work is really kind of an inspired drudgery. The painting part of my process feels like making one mistake after another until finally the last few swishes of the brush pull everything together. And then the glass – often the most time consuming, it can take months to complete the inlay in a large piece. With all of that, however, there is a way that sinking into my artistic practice brings me to a feeling of peace and connectness that I don’t find anywhere else. I have also always had a job on top of my art career, and never having enough time is a constant theme in my life. There is also always something to be gained by our choices, and the benefit for me is that my art has never been dependent on sales, thus I have had no external or marketable parameters placed on my work. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is that there is no direct line between my efforts and my results. I am responsible for creating the best art I can create, and for doing whatever I can to promote and show it, but that does not guarantee shows, sales or collectors. I had a year where I did seven shows in five states – an utterly exhausting amount of work – and I did not sell a single thing at any of those shows. And yet, that year I sold more work than I ever had before. Out of that, I came to realize that the amount of energy I was putting into my shows was creating some kind of ripple effect out in the world. Since then, I keep my focus on my studio and on the work of my hands, and try to let go of the results.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a hard question to answer ten months into a pandemic! Minneapolis is home to many fabulous restaurants, and any Best Of magazine will list far to many – but I would like to give a shout out to a handful of less well known options. Dilla Ethiopian Restaurant is a really unusual and fun place to take people – the food is picked up with a bit of sponge bread and eaten with fingers, and they have a sampler platter that is absolutely delicious. Bukhara Indian Bistro is a wonderful place to eat some of the best Indian food I have ever had. Maya Cuisine is an excellent choice for authentic Mexican food. New Hong Kong Wok is my choice for Chinese food – and if I call ahead, they will prepare special foods that are not on the menu! But, this is Minneapolis, a place of houses with yards and barbecues, and that is most of what we do. Grilled corn on the cob, eggplant and peppers tossed in a bit of olive oil along with salmon, burgers or brats – this is what my friends who come to visit expect, and what they keep coming back for. Our days will be spent walking any of the nature paths in the Cities, or taking a more strenuous hike a short drive away. If there is time, a day trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior is a must, with a stop at the Scenic Cafe for lunch or dinner. Another day could be spent wandering the halls of the many art studio buildings in Northeast Minneapolis, possibly buying a piece or two to add to our collections. If anyone wants to visit a museum, my picks are The Museum of Russian Art or The Swedish Institute. And finally, another unusual must see is the Memorial Chapel at Lakewood Cemetery – modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul, it is one of the most extraordinary and beautiful examples of Byzantine mosaic art I have ever seen…
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband, Marc Clements – He is also an artist, is always encouraging and supportive – and most importantly, he is the one who moved me through the barriers when I was developing my current body of large mixed media on carved wood paintings by pulling them out of the scrap heap and telling me to just add more paint. My friend Ingrid Restemayer, who has shared time, ideas and studio space, gallery shows, and volunteered along with me on the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District launch. NEMAA – the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, which is responsible for Art-A-Whirl, the largest open studio event in the nation. Anna Becker, the current Executive Director of NEMAA, for her leadership and vision, and for finding creative alternatives to the various open studio events that have been cancelled during this pandemic. Debra Woodward, the former head of the Northrup King Studio building for her tireless advocation of the arts and artists of Minneapolis. Finally, Minnesota is home to many Art Centers who provide space for art education as well as gallery shows. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to show at several of these local and regional centers.
Sarah Whiting Photographic