Tatana Kellner’s work is rooted in printmaking that she incorporates in her paintings, installations, and artists’ books. She uses these media to explore the visual realm and comment on social and political issues. Tatana Kellner was born in Czechoslovakia, where she grew up under the communist system as a daughter of Holocaust survivors. That upbringing has shaped her as an artist and instilled in her a deep interest in history and memory as central to our understanding of the world. She lives in Rosendale, NY working out of a 100+-year-old carriage barn. She has been exhibited in numerous venues across USA, Canada, and Europe and has had over 50 solo exhibitions. Recently, her work has been selected for inclusion in the Hunterdon Museum, Art Alive (Delhi, India), Ringling School of Art (Sarasota, Fl), the Everson Museum, University of Albany Museum, Dorsky Museum, CEPA (Buffalo), Kentler International Drawing Space, Collar Works, (Troy, NY), New York Public Library, among many others. Kellner is a co-founder and past artistic director of Women’s Studio Workshop. In 2021 she was inducted into the Hall of Champions, North American Hand Papermakers. Kellner is a recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Pollock Krasner Foundation, The Creative Climate Award, the Puffin Foundation, the Photographer’s Fund Award (CPW), the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and many others. Kellner has been awarded fellowship residencies at The MacDowell, Yaddo, Banff Centre for the Arts, Light Work, Visual Studies Workshop, Saltonstall, I-Park, Millay Arts, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Artpark, Blue Mountain Center, Jentel, Fundacion Valparaiso, Bogliasco Foundation, Siena Art Institute, Ucross, Haystack, and Ragdale Foundation.
"My practice is varied, I use whatever form is appropriate, relying on my background in painting, printmaking, photography, and book arts. Often surreal, my work is created through collaging seemingly disparate images, referring to the shifting view of history. My recent work is informed by my almost obsessive interest in current political events, and my frustration with affecting any meaningful outcome without resorting to propaganda. In my studio, I explore the collision of information and try to give it a visible form. I’m interested in this gap, the non-specificity, and the compression of feelings. My process is organic and intuitive, beginning with a disruption of the rectangular space. From these tentative beginnings, a new space emerges, suggesting perhaps a figurative or associative element that I respond to. This is not something literal, it’s a feeling, often a fleeting one, a sense of things under the surface, that something is there, lurking just around the corner. It is this ambiguity that intrigues me".
Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.
I grew up in Prague, Czechoslovakia and after the Russian army occupied the country in 1968, my family escaped and emigrated to the United States in 1969, settling in Toledo, Ohio. I was very fortunate to receive a full scholarship to the University of Toledo where I studied art. After graduating I moved to Rochester, NY, and received my MFA in printmaking in 1974. Having no realistic prospects for employment in academia at that time, myself, Ann Kalmbach, Anita Wetzel, and Barbara Leoff Burge established the Women's Studio Workshop (WSW) as an alternative, providing opportunities to women in the visual arts. As the artistic director, I continued pursuing my art career on part-time basis, attending at least one artist residency on annual basis in order to refocus my artistic energy. I retired from WSW after more than 4 decades to pursue my art career full-time.
What kind of work are you currently making?
Currently, I'm contemplating the stressed and troubling world we find ourselves in. I sit in my studio finding the courage to pick up a brush. As I paint, I question and struggle with how to channel my feelings of helplessness into a meaningful statement that would feed the soul. I want to scream but I don’t think that’s what we need right now. We need new pathways and visions to allow us to breathe and find a way to move forward in our troubled and beautiful world. That’s what I strive for in my work, melding the daily troubles both far and near, with the absolute joy of welcoming the new day so full of possibilities with open eyes and heart.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
Usually, I'm in my studio by 9am and after the obligatory attending to emails, I begin the day by looking at my work from the day before and trying to make some decisions on how to proceed. If I'm unsure, I think of where to go next. These days I'm mainly mono-printing, which is a relatively rapid process for most, but for me, it involves a prolonged period of experimentation, give and take, and collaging elements printed earlier. I work in a specific way until I feel I'm beginning to repeat myself, and have nothing fresh to add, at which point I'll switch to a different medium, in order to get a fresh start. This period of uncertainty is the most frustrating for me. I usually take an hour's lunch break and return to my studio for the afternoon, before going for a walk later in the day.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
I try to see the art exhibits in my region in Hudson Valley and visit galleries and museums in NYC on monthly basis. I just finished reading the Grey Zone by Andrey Kurov, a very powerful novel about the grey zone, a space that neither Russia nor Ukraine controls. I'm in the middle of several other books - Grace Paley's Collected Stories and Ninth Street Women.
Where can we find more of your work?
In July 2023 I'll be having a solo exhibit at the KIPNZ gallery in Walton, NY. Currently, my work is included in Ink, Press, Repeat: a juried national printmaking exhibition at William Paterson University (January 30 - March 24, 2023 ) and the Contemporary Printmaking exhibit Woodstock Art Museum (January 21 - February 26, 2023).