The news paradigm is shifting daily, but visual artist Anita Kunz keeps illustrating current issues and the human condition. “I’ll read something and think, ‘Is this true?’ ” Kunz says. “I don’t know what to believe sometimes. It’s kind of a scary time because democracy is based on an informed citizenry … With all this fake news, it’s a paradigm shift for sure.”
Nevertheless, Kunz continues to ride the waves of change in the news industry to produce her social and political illustrations that have circled the globe and earned her accolades including lifetime achievement awards and Canada’s highest honor, appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
In light of her body of work, Kunz was asked to adjudicate submissions to the 2017 FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Socially and Politically Engaged Art at East Tennessee State University – and to give the featured juror’s talk on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m. in Reece Museum. The 2017 FL3TCH3R awards and reception will follow the talk, from 6-8 p.m. at the museum. The talk and reception are free and open to the public.
From 352 submissions by 132 artists, Kunz selected 76 pieces by 55 artists from six countries and 21 states. These pieces will be on display at Reece Museum through Dec. 15.
The FL3TCH3R Exhibit: Socially and Politically Engaged Art was established in 2013 by art professor Wayne Dyer, Barbara Dyer and Carrie Dyer in memory of their son and brother, Fletcher, who passed away in 2009 at age 22 in a motorcycle accident.
The now-fifth annual exhibition homes in on social and political visual commentary, because, Fletcher, an ETSU senior in graphic design, wanted everyone to engage in the world and issues around them. “Dr. Kunz is also passionate about social and political world conditions and how they affect all exposed, including animal life,” says exhibit co-director Barbara Dyer. “She has brought a lot of passion and excitement to the selection process for the 2017 exhibit.”
Since graduating from Ontario College of Art, the news has incited thought and its visual result in Kunz. While originally intending to illustrate children’s books – inspired by her uncle, an art educator – Kunz took a circuitous route through advertising design to earn the honor of creating covers for the world’s most-respected publications.
Kunz’ illustrations have been featured on the covers of Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times Magazine and more than 50 book jackets. A Canada native, her works are in permanent collections at the Library of Congress, the Canadian Archives, The Norman Rockwell Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
“Students always think they are going to leave school and send their portfolio to Rolling Stone and get a cover but it just does not happen that way,” she says. “It took me years of doing jobs like cat and dog food labels, fishing tackle labels and shoe drawings. I remember doing a full-page newspaper ad of Raid with an insect flying toward you. It wasn’t glamorous.”
Now, Kunz’ illustrative art focuses on the political, images of world leaders, trends and strife, while her fine art is populated with the interactions, real and imagined, between humans and animals – birds, bees, bats, horses, raccoons, kangaroos, koalas, giraffes, elephants, owls, lions and monkeys (her favorite) – friendly and frightening.
“I started doing political work 40 years ago so it’s so normal for me to try and make work that addresses social and political issues,” she says. “As much as I love decorative art, it just doesn’t feel as authentic to me as political art …
“I go to a museum and look at abstract work and think ‘I don’t get it.’ I think if you’re drawing figures it’s much easier to comment about humanity … I’m interested in what makes us tick, anthropology, psychology and all that stuff, that’s what interests me so that’s the work I want to make.”
Not only will the illustrator discuss her life’s work and interests with the audience on Oct. 26, but she has set aside most of her week Oct. 23-27 to share her insights and talents with ETSU’s Art & Design students. “Anita’s life’s work, as well as her success, should be inspiring and encouraging to our students,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, co-sponsor of Kunz’ visit to ETSU.
For more information on Kunz, visit http://anitakunz.com/. For more on the FL3TCH3R Exhibit, visit http://www.FL3TCH3Rexhibit.com and for Reece Museum, visit www.etsu.edu/reece or call 423-439-4392. For more information on Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-8587.