Inside the Studio Where Artist Kennedy Yanko Creates Her Surreal Sculptures

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“When I first started painting, I painted on canvas, but I was always seeking a different kind of support that could offer more dimension. Eventually, I graduated to painting on rubber sheets, which allowed me to manipulate the canvas’s shape more easily when mounting it on the wall. But it wasn’t until I finally took paint off of the canvas, that I realized its full potential.  I think I’ll be refining paint skins for the rest of my life, and translating them into other material…like marble.”

Zeph Colombatto

Yanko has seized opportunities for creative expansion, making her acting debut in Spike Lee’s TV series She’s Gotta Have It, and more recently walking in Pyer Moss’s inaugural couture show. “I’m so honored to be able to watch my friend’s creative vision,” she says. “We’re seeing Black aesthetics and creativity unfiltered in a new arena. I’m most excited to witness the winds of change.” At the historic Villa Lewaro estate, Yanko could be seen on the runway in a black, white and red structural number, designed to represent a fire hydrant. “I love that the brand is true to itself and I love that the brand moves with its own regard,” she says of the excitement she had about walking in the show. “I’m not at all interested in modeling, but I’m open to partnerships and collaborations with those who align with me and my art.”

In April, Yanko finished an NFT alongside the musician Masego, which will be released July 28th. Harnessing his synesthesia, Masego created a score to go with Yanko’s 2018 black, white and gray marbleized paint skin and metal piece, “Purity.” The project was inspired partially by a VR/AR project she dreamed up in 2015, in which guests would visit a landscape “defined by the fractals of a paint skin.” Yanko intended it to be a virtual space of tranquility and reflection, and her goal is the same with the NFT. Experimenting with new digital art forms and technology seems, to Yanko, like a new way for artists to find meaningful support and patronage.

“My motivation lies in knowing that showing up [to my studio] over time is what’s gotten me where I am, and I’m really just getting started.”

Zeph Colombatto

“I spend a lot of time just looking at my work, and reading here. I’m often looking and thinking for months…I really cherish this little corner here that I have.”

Zeph Colombatto

Whether she’s pursuing her art career or tapping into new realms, Yanko lives by a forward-moving mantra. “Do not wait for someone to present an opportunity for you to share your brilliant ideas. Just do it and worry about everything once it’s done. Don’t get caught up in the fantasy of what you think needs to be done,” she says. Her studio is a mirror of her everyday approach: “Take care of yourself and protect your work.”

“I don’t have any favorite pieces of my own. I’m much more interested in processes than final forms. The first thing I do when looking at a work in a museum or at a gallery is go to its sides and look behind it, or look beneath it, and try to figure out how it was made,” Yanko says. “In my own practice, I take so much away from making and feeling my material with my hands…having something finished and representative of that moment is such a special thing, whether the final state is bright, muted, sharp or soft. It’s honest and telling.”

Zeph Colombatto

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