“I want my art to be multi-dimensional. I want it to be different and I want it to be innovative.”
Breathtaking, deep romantic color palettes, striking dream-like imagery, powerful storytelling accompanied with a bold, introspective message – these are just some of the unique elements you’ll find present in Kanya Iwana’s art, especially in her latest project titled, “i don’t fit in”. You might remember reading about Kanya previously on the blog, but allow me to introduce her again for those of you who don’t know. Kanya is an highly-talented visual and performing artist, a storyteller, designer, filmmaker, curator, musician, entrepreneur, and more recently, a soon-to-be mommy. Before she even introduced me to her latest project, I’ve always admired how resilient and hardworking Kanya is as an artist (and as a human), even with a tiny human growing in her belly. Which by the way, today is her baby girl’s due date and the release date of this amazing project I’m about to share with you all.
Kanya’s latest project “i don’t fit in” is a celebration of the lone wolves, for the ones who don’t necessarily belong in a tribe, for those who haven’t found a “niche”. It’s a project for those who have been bullied by others, or those who are their own bully. Kanya shares portraits and stories from her peers, those who have experienced the struggle to fit in themselves.
I got the chance to sit down and chat last Sunday with the artist herself (shoutout to Coffee Bean on La Cienega & 3rd!). We chatted about the project, her creative process, and where she draws inspiration from – and in a matter of 30 minutes, I could just fill the passion emitting from her presence, and it inspired me. I’m so excited to share!
Read the full interview with Kanya Iwana below.
A: Could you tell me a little bit of the backstory on why you created “i don’t fit in”?
K: I wanted to experiment with art direction, and I really wanted to challenge myself and push myself to include fashion, fabrics, makeup, and create an entire painting. In everything I create, I want my art to be multi-dimensional. I want it to be different and I want it to be innovative. For this project, I knew that I wanted to tell a story, make something out of the box, and create impact. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what theme I wanted it to be. I was thinking so hard for a couple weeks about what story I should tell, if I should go the social justice route or the political route. I really wasn’t sure. So I created this project from a place that I know, which is not being able to fit in.
A: That’s amazing. Why did you choose to bring this particular group together to participate?
K: I was bullied as a kid, and I never really fit in. Even in the industry now, I don’t fit in and that’s okay. I gathered all these people because I know that I’m not the only one that feels that way. I’ve observed how they navigate themselves and their careers, and a lot of these people that I contacted had to share their stories because they don’t “fit in”. I wanted them to share their journey and that’s what this project became. I want “i don’t fit in” to be a celebration of being a lone wolf, figuring out who you are, and being okay with it. I want to encourage everyone that not fitting in is attractive. Being out of place is totally embraceable and it’s attractive to be yourself.
A: Okay, so it’s about bullying, and speaking in context of today, not fitting into society?
K: It’s about bullying and speaking in terms of now, a lot of the testimonies in this project state that “I was my own bully” because they didn’t fit in. It’s parallel to bullying, because when you don’t fit in, you feel like it’s your fault. You start to feel insecure, feeling like you have to change – and that’s not being good to yourself.
A: My favorite part about your work is that it’s very easily identifiable, your colors, composition, everything. Tell me a little bit more about the art direction in this project. How did you plan everything out?
K: I’m big with color palettes. With every medium that I create, it has to be cohesive. For the art direction, I didn’t plan any of this. I didn’t have a mood board for this one, which I usually do – it was all in my head. This time, that’s what worked because I trusted my gut. The thing that’s so special about this project is that it felt organic and it was all in my head, and all the people that were involved in this trusted me the entire way. Everyone that participated brought their own wardrobe, and it was fun for me to decide on the background, makeup, and direction right on the spot.
A: I remember before this, you were heavily involved in music. Do you ever plan to revisit that route?
K: Yes, and that’s interesting that you ask because I started with music. It’s much more sensitive and delicate to me now, because what I create and what I publish is going to be there forever.
A: You mean to say that you’re a little bit more careful about what you put out?
K: Exactly, because now I have a legacy. I have a daughter. I don’t want to just create cute songs and regret it two songs later. I don’t want to show her something that I created that I personally don’t like, so I’m a little bit more careful.
A: Got it. So the next step is to emerge the two paths as a performance artist and visual artist together.
K: I think everything that I’m working on now with the visual art side, that’s going to really play a role in my brand as a performance artist. A great example is Solange – she has really strong legs in her creative direction that when it’s blended to her music, it’s so much more impactful. Sia did the same thing, she’s in the pop world but she has a very strong, distinct creative direction. People listen to her music and watch her videos because of that as well. That’s the type of artist I want to be – I want people to experience my art and know that this is Kanya.
A: I know you’re going to become a mommy to Milo very very soon! What is one thing you’d want to say to 18 year-old Milo right now?
K: Oh my god, that’s a tough one. If I could tell her anything, it would be: to love yourself, sincerely love yourself. Because anyone can walk around and think they’re the shit and all, but I want her to do that for the right reasons. I don’t want her to convince everyone else around her that she thinks so. I want her to know that she’s the shit just by being her, and not having to prove it to anyone.
A: Okay one more question, and this one is more so advice for me because right now I’m going through a little bit of a creative funk. When was the last time you had a creative block? How did you do to overcome it?
K: I experienced the same thing during the first six months of my pregnancy, and I had to tell myself to stop. It’s so easy to fall into a place where you lose inspiration, and I knew I didn’t want to be that kind of mom, I don’t want to be stuck at home and unhappy. When I first found out I was having Milo, so many people kept asking me, “but Kanya, what are you going to do with your career?” – I got that question so many times, and the answer to that is I’m going to keep going. She’s going to inspire me and encourage me to be more focused, which she already has.