Depth Perception

WNC Magazine

Depth Perception. The many dimensions of Kenn Kotara reveal order amid chaos.

Article by Caroll Leggett, Photography by Jennifer Haynes


Abstract artist Kenn Kotara had a difficult time finding his path. “I started drawing as a child, and it always was a passion for me. But my father was very pragmatic,” recalls the Asheville artist. “He thought I should have a profession, a nine-to-five job that paid well.” After a short stint studying architecture, Kotara took his first drawing class at 28 and emerged with a master’s in fine arts from Louisiana Tech University.

Kotara wasn’t happy until painting became his sole occupation. Today at age 52, his home studio is tidy, and he describes his art as “making orderly systems out of chaos while I create in phases and categories.”   

The category that makes up his largest body of work involves curvilinear lines that seem random, spontaneous, and even aimless. However, every twist and turn is calculated. He begins each painting by creating a grid on the canvas and using the same dimensions for each circle. Kotara creates with a continuous awareness of positive and negative space, believing that empty space is important to composition.

Given the artist’s desire to work with pencils, ink, charcoal, pastels, oil pastels, acrylic, and oil paints on canvas, paper, and Mylar, he is wed to no one medium. “I have many temperaments,” he says, “and the fact that my work tends to fall into categories is illustrative of that. I move from one to the other as my inner need requires.”

A fan of transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, Kotara read On Walden Pond and then created artwork on paper for each of the 18 chapters. Each is comprised of two stacked color panels imprinted with braille.

These braille pieces reveal the thoughtful, multidimensional side of Kotara who has deep frustrations concerning the U.S. social and political systems. He chooses words and phrases from documents that are fundamental to the American political experience, such as the Magna Carta, and from the writings of persons he admires, such as Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. 

“I create on my own terms, and I love the moment of discovery when a viewer looks at something I have created and connects with it,” muses Kotara. “In my opinion, a good piece of art keeps you coming back for more.”                            


On View

Kotara is represented by Gallery Minerva in Asheville, Flanders Gallery in Raleigh, and Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta.

Inspiration, by Design

Asheville Citizen-Times, January 2012
Inspiration, by Design: Quick format presentation series returns to Asheville Friday

By Carol Motsinger, photography by John Fletcher


 For John Dean, design isn’t just a college degree.

“Design is all around us,” Dean said, who is a freelance designer and promoter of Pecha Kucha Night Asheville, an art- and design-focused presentation series returning Friday.

“We think of it when we set the table for dinner, we witness it when we admire sculpture, it is what attracts us to cool websites, and it is what inspires most of our consumer choices. … Witnessing design is a unique human attribute. Some people do it for a living; some people just admire it.”

Pecha Kucha Night is a design forum with more than 460 installments across the globe. Friday night’s event at the Phil Mechanic Studios will be Asheville’s fifth installment in about two years.

Dean wanted to bring the idea to Asheville “in an effort to develop a salonlike forum in which we could discuss, refine and explore design — big, small, professional and amateur.”

Presenters each show 20 slides for 20 seconds each, meaning the total presentation can only be 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

“They move along without fail, forcing the presentation to keep up with the images,” Dean said. “The presentation format is long enough to allow for a succinct, substantial narrative, and short enough for a shy person to tackle.”

Friday’s lineup includes Kitty Love, arts advocate and head of Asheville Area Arts Council; Rob Seven, Asheville folk artist; Ursula Gullow, arts writer/blogger and painter; and Brian Dunsmore, marketing director with The Wine Studio of Asheville.

“This presentation will have slides from artists, graphic designers, craft persons, culinary artists, nondesign professionals, graffiti artists, illustrators and community organizers,” Dean said.

Asheville artist Kenn Kotara has attended Pecha Kucha Night before but will be manning the projector for the first time Friday.

“I think it’s an exciting format,” Kotara said. “I like the succinct brevity of it. You are able to put your ideas out there. It’s more like sketches if you think of it in terms of artwork. These are the quick sketches.”

Kotara said his presentation explores color and form, but the 20 slides in his script keeps changing.

“I added a new image the other day when I was watching a program with my son and this image made me realize and connect with something,” Kotara said.

Kotara can find design in everything, from automobiles to clothing to thought processes. “Design has to be looked at as not just a pretty thing, but something that fulfills the aggressive evolution of humanity,” he said.

Dean has been most impressed by past presenters who “work outside of the design profession, but tinker in their spare time making amazing and unique objects out of things in their basement.”

Ron Larsen, who manufactures educational tools for autistic children, produced one of these memorable slide shows, Dean said.

“Through his presentation, Ron showed how great design can be achieved by listening to and learning with the end-user,” he said.

“Ron’s presentation also described his process of creating a series of incredibly useful educational tools out of a common bit of waste, the average shoebox. Through his efforts, he cleverly created learning tools out of shoeboxes, crafting or using them in a variety of ways in order to understand and educate autistic patients.”