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Meet the Team: Molly Kafka

by Sabrina Garber

Molly rounds out our team with her quiet yet sweet and personable nature. If we handed out yearbook awards, we all agree she would be voted as having the best style (in both dress and hair categories!). And she clearly has good taste in tortilla chips too, coming in second in our recent chip throwdown. But when Molly isn’t tackling wholesale orders or discussing the drama that is Dance Moms with April, she is an extraordinary painter and artist. When asked about her art, Molly generously opened up about her inspiration and creative process, passing along some of the best advice she has received …

Molly Kafka(image: Molly in front of her painting, Insect)

 The One With the Other | Molly Kafka(image: The One With the Other by Molly)

What themes and concepts do you find yourself exploring in your work?

In my work, I explore social constructions of beauty, specifically those constructs aimed at women. I look at how society puts a certain type of pressure on women, no matter what age, race, or social status, to be beautiful and perfect. We are constantly bombarded with images of idealistic and unrealistic standards through magazines, advertisements, and social media, platforms that I typically use as both research and as my “sketchbook.” I take these images of ideal beauty and deconstruct them. I warp the figure and make it strange. I explore the idea of elegance and vulgarity, beauty and the grotesque, searching for a harmony between the two. Unlike today’s society that for the most part discourages women from being anything but ideal, I aim to show that even if a body is deconstructed and warped and filled with imperfections, it is still beautiful. Strangeness is beautiful.

I also explore the history of women’s work and its relationship to the world of fine art, which is historically a male dominated industry. Although I predominately identify as a painter, I also weave, sew, and embroider. I combine these techniques into my paintings to show that these historically “women’s crafts” cannot only be part of, but can be equally as important as painting.

The One With the Legs (In Progress) | Molly Kafka(image: The One With the Legs by Molly. In progress.)

The One With the Legs (In Progress) | Molly Kafka(image: The One With the Legs by Molly. In progress.)

The One With the Legs | Molly Kafka(image: The One With the Legs by Molly)

Do you have a favorite piece of work or project of yours?

I have several pieces that I love, but I’d have to say that my all-time favorite painting would be The One With the Legs (pictured above). This was a real turning point in my artistic growth—technically, aesthetically, and conceptually. This was a very frustrating piece for me to paint, spending weeks and weeks repainting a different version of the same image. After deciding one day that this just wasn’t working, I made the quick decision to completely paint over what I had been working on. I took the chance, and to my surprise it worked! From that point on, I decided once and for all to not look at my paintings as precious pieces of art. They are each individual experiments, and if you can paint it once, you can paint it again! I kept some of my original painting in my “new” painting, and absolutely loved the effect that that had. All of a sudden, my once boring image of a female figure transformed into a warped, disassembled, multiple-legged figure. It was interesting, ambiguous, and unique … and I just loved it! I have used this technique of painting and repainting for almost every painting since!

The One With the Hand (In Progress) | Molly Kafka(image: The One With the Hand by Molly. Collage.)

The One With the Hand | Molly Kafka(image: The One With the Hand by Molly)

Would you say you have an artistic process? Do you adhere to a routine when you work?

I would definitely say that I have an artistic process! Before I begin painting, I usually look at a lot of fashion magazines (my favorite is W Magazine), and collage images of figures, combining bodies, parts of bodies, patterns, and color. I also look at photographs online and on Instagram! I then use these collages and images as a reference (or a “sketch”) and begin painting. For the most part, my paintings never turn out how I expect them to, but that’s what I love that about them. After I have painted something on the canvas, I decide if I even like it, and if I don’t (which is more often than not!), I will completely paint, cut, stitch, embroider, or collage over what I have already created. I love experimenting and taking risks while I work on my paintings, and believe that “messing up” only leads to the most unexpected results!

image of Judith II | Mirage Bookmark's Flickr Photostream(image: section of Gustav Klimt's Judith II taken by Mirage Bookmark)

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Gustav Klimt has always been an inspiration for me. I admire the elegance and romance in his work, and how he contrasts the beauty of his paintings with elements of chaos and the grotesque. I studied abroad in Venice, Italy, and went to Cà Pesaro, a modern art museum located in a beautiful Venetian Baroque palace. While walking through the museum, I literally stopped in my tracks at the sight of an actual Gustav Klimt painting (I had never seen one in real life before!). This painting that I proceeded to stare at, study, and sketch for over an hour was his 1909 oil painting titled Judith II. I have so many paintings that I admire, but I’d have to say that this is the painting that I’d absolutely love to own!

Molly and Her Mom(image: Molly and her mom)

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

The best advice I’ve been given is to be fearless with your work and don’t be afraid to fail. I’m sure many people have heard something like this before, and it might be a bit cliché, but this piece of advice really stuck with me! It took me until my junior year of college to really be ok with the thought of “failing.” I am definitely my own worst critic and can be very hard on the work I create, and I used to take it personally if I had a bad critique. But, I finally realized that that my paintings are not always a reflection of myself as an artist. If you have a bad critique or receive poor feedback, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad or untalented artist. It just means that it wasn’t your strongest piece, and all you have to do is learn from it and move on! Be fearless and you will be surprised by the outcome, good or bad. You won’t know what will happen until you try it, and that way of thinking without the constant fear of failing has really helped me grow as an artist!

Thanks, Molly! If you'd like to check out out more of Molly's fearless artwork, you can visit her online portfolio. Or follow her here for more glimpses of her artistic process and vision!  

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