Brazilian-born, Los Angeles-based artist Mona Kuhn, acclaimed for her contemporary depictions of the nude through intimacy with her subjects, knowledge of traditional iconography and technical mastery, as well as portraying the complexities of human nature, both tempting and provoking the viewer’s imagination – and who has exhibited in the States, Europe and South America, including at the Louvre Museum – plumbs her own psychological depths only to discover what makes her love work and life.
What historical art figure would you like to have lunch with and why? Considering the award, it would be great to have lunch with Stieglitz, and thank him for propelling photography as an art form into the future. [Ed. note: Mona Kuhn receives the Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) 2021 Stieglitz Award October 2.]
What did you purchase with the proceeds from your first sale? I got a bunch of groceries and cooked dinner for my close friends. I still remember that. It was in Berlin in the early 90’s, we were all young artists supporting each other after the wall came down.
What words or phrases do you overuse? I am mostly German during the week and definitely Brazilian during the weekends!
What TV series from your youth best describes your approach to life? I did not watch that many TV series, but I always kept an eye on the international news (radio or TV). I grew up in Brazil during a transition between military dictatorship and democracy, and the journalism at that time felt intellectually stimulating. We all had our eyes and ears glued to the news, sitting together at the kitchen table. That eagerness for what’s happening in the world has most likely launched me from the kitchen table talks to an international projection.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would like to be a Highlander and live forever.
What is your most treasured memory? Being a child, embraced by my mother, leaning my ear on her chest, and listening to her voice echoing within.
What makes you smile? A spontaneous someone else’s smile will do!
What makes you cry? “Weltschmerz” the German expression for an accumulation of suffering and unfairness in the world.
What is your go-to drink when you toast to a sale? I don’t really toast to a sale, I go to work and deliver it. Its like basketball, I like a good ball game, it feels great to break a sweat and I enjoy gulps of fresh water as a reward.
After an all-nighter, what’s your breakfast of champions? Huevos Ranchero with everything included.
Who inspires you? Children, they give me hope and make me work harder towards a better future.
What’s your best quality? Speaking various languages has come in handy.
What’s your biggest flaw? I am terrible in remembering birthdays. It does not mean I don’t care, it’s just a personal flaw, it makes me anxious and I push it away.
What is your current state of mind? “Fast forward” I am excited about coming out of the pandemic, reconnecting with friends and be part of a collective positive force forward.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I think the best is yet to come. Next year I will be opening an exhibition at AD&A Museum with laser projectors and large scale cinematic screens. We have been testing and re-testing, I am excited about pushing the boundaries of photography.
Portrait of the artist by Boris Salchow
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be? I would love to come back as a female astronaut! I was born in 1969, when man stepped on the moon, and that has always been a dream. Maybe in my next life…
Three Rays, 2012
Cover image, artist portrait by Boris Salchow; all other images courtesy Galerie XII;
An exhibition of Kuhn’s works is on view at LACP’s Culver City Gallery through October 7, 2021. The artist’s book, Mona Kuhn WORKS was recently published by Thames & Hudson.