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Humans as ‘Stewards of the earth’: Mya Kerner’s art and devotion to mountains!

November 6, 2018

Mya Kerner is a Seattle based painter and sculptor. In her words, ”Inward, then outward, guided by the space between stones” – epitomises her devotion to the mountains. Says Mya “I regard the mountains as stoic icons reflected by mortality, records of the movements of the earth and the torrents of the sky”. In this interaction she highlights our role as ”stewards of the earth” and warns about ”Western civilization’s excessive anthropocentrism’. A rare artist on her ascent to greatness!


Q: The stark and rugged beauty of North American mountains seem to challenge your creativity almost exclusively?

A: Previously, when my work explored the idea of distance, I chose from a broader range of mountains. I was interested in learning about places and formations I had not experienced myself. These days, I like to respond to a specific place of which I have my own memories, so I am painting from locations I have visited. This includes the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, my home, as well as some in Europe and Scandinavia.

Q: The intense focus on the form, texture and nuance/s of your current passion kind of blurs out any flora. There is virtually no sky either in your scheme of things?

A: In my process, I focus on a specific subject for a length of time before expanding the subject matter in the painting. My partner, Zak Helenske, often likens my painting process to that of a potter; each painting is a continuation of the last. When I began painting mountains in 2016, I only painted the peaks. My focus then was on the geologic formations and capturing the ever-changing view of the mountain. Once I felt confident in how I portrayed the peaks, I moved down to the foothills, developing marks to represent the visual boundary of horizontal and vertical. More recently, I have moved into the foreground. In this space, I am working on a language for the rocks. This is not a planned progression, just a tendency I have noticed over the years. I’m not sure what will come next, maybe a sky, maybe flora, maybe a completely different subject all together!

Q: Do the Himalayas, Alps or the Andes at all beckon your attention?

A: Yes, definitely. I am interested in the differences found in geological formations across the Earth.

Q: In terms of colours you generally choose white as your background and a dominant interplay of black and grey in the foreground? Is this how one should expect it to stay?

A: In this series, I feel strongly about keeping the sky as white. This may come from living under the solid grey or white sky in Seattle for at least half the year. For the last two years my color pallet has been primarily different shades of blue. I was thinking a lot about distance in these works, and so blue felt appropriate. However, as my focus has started moving down into the foreground, more colors have found their way into the work.

Q: Humans as ‘stewards of the earth’! How does this conflict with excessive anthropocentrism?

A: My understanding in this role comes from my studies in permaculture, a system of principles relating to agriculture and society, developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgen in the 1970s. The underlying ethics of permaculture are care of the Earth, care of people, and return of surplus to the Earth and people. When living these ethics, there is no room for anthropocentrism because the system is inherently interconnected. There are many mythologies which place humans in this role within the land, however, there are examples throughout history where civilizations collapsed due to an abuse of the land. I would say that the Enlightenment created the greatest rift, when we began to see nature as resource rather than Source and from this emerged Western civilization’s excessive anthropocentrism.

Q: How does one break the stoic silence of your subject matter – so as to wake up the mankind to the ‘unpredictability and grandeur’ that they represent?

A: This is a question I continue to explore in my work.

Q: If you were to consider composing suitable music what could it be – to be compelling enough a wake up call?

A: I am not sure. I think White Wanderer was a successful attempt at answering this question. In the public sound piece, Luftwerk used Douglas MacAyeal’s recordings of moving glaciers to create a soundtrack for climate change.

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