TSC: You’re back on American soil. How does it feel to be in your home state after spending quite a few years in Europe? What encouraged your decision to move back to the US and what will you miss most about living abroad?
KK: I actually wasn’t planning on moving back. I originally came for summer holidays and was going to start a new job in the Netherlands in August, but I arrived here after nearly three years of separation from my family and got into the mountains and just realized I couldn’t leave. I originally left Colorado in 2006 and I think it took those 15 years away to fully appreciate how out-of-control beautiful and adventurous it is here. I keep thinking, “what the hell was I doing for the first 26 years of my life?" Last weekend I went up and did a solo overnighter in the Zirkel Wilderness close to Steamboat, and the beauty just melted my mind. It's those moments of exploration and discovery that confirm it has been the right decision for me to be back. At the same time, there is so much I will miss about living abroad; the European lifestyle is vastly different in the best ways. Europe is so much more conscious of things that are really important to me, like work-life balance, aesthetics, sustainability, and protection of certain aspects of culture (like art). America has its moments with some of these things, but we do a poor job by comparison, at least in my experience. Probably more than anything, though, I will miss navigating European roads on my bike and how safe I felt cycling with the biking infrastructure put into place in most countries.
TSC: As an artist you’ve worked across a lot of diverse environments and mediums, and focus your work on the subjects of place, memory, body, and language. Your work is also very physical, using actual bodies in nature, raw materials, sculptural forms. Have other aspects of the human experience, such as our increasingly reliant need for technology and digital connectivity influenced your process? What challenges do you face in finding that “folded in” feeling to the world—which you describe as part of your work. What affects that connection, good or bad?
KK: There are a lot of influences on my process, but assimilation into the environment and trying to belong somewhere through the action of my physicality is the driving inspiration behind my work. I honestly find nearly everything to be a challenge to feeling “folded in” to where you are. Most of my adult life has been spent in transience, and the world is a big place. While it often feels surprisingly small, it can also sometimes feel inhospitable, or unnavigable, or just plain big when you have to find “home” so many times over. I needed something to feel like I belonged. The idea of using my body to navigate a landscape is a process that helped me to do that, and it was also an abstract way of thinking about making my mark on a place that was simultaneously making its mark on me. Having grown up running around the mountains, using my physical faculties to establish a coalescence with my surroundings makes sense to me—finding harmony with a place through action. Feeling and navigating that place with my body, using my physicality to push into the world around me and allowing it to press back.
This was originally self-centric—being itinerant for so many years and focusing on my own idiosyncratic experience in the world—but recently I am thinking more about humanity as a disparate force against nature and how our lack of assimilation is putting everything I love the most about existing on earth at grave risk. I suppose the pseudo-connectivity you ask about probably has a lot to do with that. We experience so much less in the real these days; it disconnects us from what is truly important.
TSC: Tell me about a time when you were last…?
KK: I was last exploring the Rocky Mountains on foot sometime in 2010, on a summer home from a stint living in Switzerland. I had only just started cycling and it wasn’t an integral part of my life yet. I did a mountaineering trip with a close friend of mine that summer (four big technical summits in two days). Driving into the national forest the night before, we saw a mountain lion bound across the road right in front of us then disappear down a river bank on the other side. It’s the first and only time I’ve ever seen one in the wild. After the first day of climbing, we soaked our feet in the lake, sipping beers and looking up at the peaks we had just traversed. That evening, we were visited by a young deer who approached our camp and stood there curiously, a few feet from us, before it looked me in the eye, blinked, and turned and walked away. The next day, we were able to glissade down the second summit, yelping with delight as we slid down a massive snowfield on our butts, using ice axes as unreliable brakes. After a few years, I lost touch with this friend. I stayed in Europe and we were just living our separate lives. Two summers ago, he died in a climbing accident. Being back here in the mountains has made me think about him a lot, and has brought into acute focus what truly is important. For me that’s my family and proximity to the mountains in which I grew up, which is ultimately what caused me to stay.