Kimo Nelson, Untitled (#0421), 2015. Acrylic on linen, 60 x 60 in.

Kimo Nelson, Untitled (#0421), 2015. Acrylic on linen, 60 x 60 in.

Kimo Nelson, Untitled (#0415), 2014. Acrylic on linen, 48 x 36 in.

Kimo Nelson, Untitled (#0415), 2014. Acrylic on linen, 48 x 36 in.

Kimo Nelson, Untitled (#0427), 2015. Acrylic on linen, 20 x 19 in.

Kimo Nelson, Untitled (#0427), 2015. Acrylic on linen, 20 x 19 in.

January 2017 Artist Feature: KIMO NELSON


Kimo Nelson is a painter whose extensive travel and backcountry wilderness experiences provide the foundation for his artistic practice. He was born in Honolulu, HI and grew up moving between the US, SE Asia, and the Middle East. Kimo studied painting and drawing at Lewis & Clark College and the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, OR. He went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design where he received an MFA in painting with honors in 2012. He is the recipient of two graduate fellowships from RISD and was included on the commended scholars list at OCAC. He has been an organizer and participant for the Signal Fire artist residency program based in Portland, OR. Kimo has exhibited nationally at galleries and non-profit spaces including Danese/Corey Gallery and Gallery 532 Thomas Jaeckel in New York, NY, Projekt 722 in Brooklyn, NY, Disjecta in Portland, OR, and Chase Young in Boston, MA. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.


Janna Añonuevo Langholz: Hi Kimo, I'm really glad to have learned about your work and the opportunity to talk to you more about it. Could you give me a little introduction to yourself and your practice?

Kimo Nelson: I was born in Honolulu, HI. My father is from Salt Lake City, Utah and my mother is from Ilihan, Tabogon, a town north of Cebu City. I spent my early childhood moving around between the US, SE Asia, and the Middle East. I moved to the US permanently as a teenager and began guiding in the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, and SE Alaska while I completed college and graduate school. I moved to Brooklyn after completing studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. My practice is still significantly connected to the landscape of the West where I grew up and worked.

As an artist I began my work as an explorer and a collector. I make archives of found objects, photos, and drawings that provide a point of departure for paintings produced through experimentation, process, and chance. The archives are a record of explorations from both wilderness areas of the American West where I am from, and the industrial areas of New York where I currently reside. I'm interested in themes of transition, evolution, and flux described through processes of growth and decay. I am most interested where I find parallels or commonalities of these themes in both natural and man made environments. My process involves multiple transfer layers over a textural surface. The layering of material is a way to think about both the literal, physical layering of matter in a landscape, and the layering of information that mediates our perceptions of both urban and natural environments.

JAL: What kinds of landscapes inspire you?

KN:  The desert of the Colorado Plateau was the first landscape I began to engage with as a subject, and continues to be an important subject for me. I make at least one trip back a year to gather information and reorient my perspective. Recently I have also extended my interest into mountain landscapes, drawing from archives I’ve made from time in the American and Canadian Rockies, the Cascades, and the Wrangell-St. Elias range in Alaska. 

JAL: Where is your ideal place, or environment to work?

KN:  It depends on what I am trying to do. When I am in the field I’m very much in the mode of a collector and am trying to balance enjoying my time outside with being open to the surroundings and reacting to that direct experience. If I am doing research or simply processing what I’ve collected in the field ideally I would be at home in a more casual environment where I am free to move from one thing to another. If I am in production mode then I want to be in the studio.

JAL:  How have your experiences as a trip leader for Signal Fire shaped your practice?

KN: I started my practice while working as a commercial guide. I’ve since moved on from professional guiding to pursue art full time. Signal Fire has provided me continued access to wilderness areas and the opportunity to meet other artists in that context.

JAL:  Who are some artists you admire? Do you follow the work of any other Filipino artists? 

KN: I start with, and ultimately go back to Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Cezanne, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Charles Burchfield, Arthur Dove, and Georgia O’Keefe. I’m also interested in abstractionists like Thomas Nozkowski, Stanley Whitney, Carrie Moyer, and Chris Martin. I wasn’t really aware of that many Filipino artists and am excited about this project for that reason.  That said I was aware of the work of both Manuel Ocampo and Jessica Hagedorn, a painter and a writer respectively. I came across their work early on in my development. I thought it great that both seemed to work well in the context of American art and culture while still maintaining strong connections to their Filipino backgrounds. 

JAL: What are you working on lately?

KN: Lately I’ve been focusing on a series of paintings and drawings referencing my last two trips, one in the Grand Canyon in March and more recently a Signal Fire trip I led in Canyonlands.

See more of Kimo's work at: