Hawaii native, Kiana Kamalu came to Southern Utah University with a desire to study English. After taking 2D Design on a whim, she ended up falling in love with the field of art. Now, as a senior studio arts major, Kamalu said she is amazed by the visual art department at SUU and is thankful for the community she has found.
Kamalu recently displayed a series of surreal digital portraits at the Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition in the Southern Utah Museum of Art. Kamalu has always been inspired by people; how they look, feel and interact with the world.
“No matter what I do, I have always drawn people and faces, and have continually found them fascinating,” said Kamalu. “I'm also intrigued by making a portrait look more supernatural or slightly creepy.”
For example, one of Kamalu’s pieces showcases a man with glowing eyes and smoke surrounding him. Kamalu describes the piece as strange, and said those are the elements she really enjoys physically and digitally painting.
Kamalu said one of her favorite artists is Loish, an illustrator/animator who works with vibrant color palettes. She used those elements as inspiration to exaggerate the colors in her pieces.
Kamalu thinks her paintings represent some of her own emotions and personal journeys and is pleased to have been able to display them in the show. Kamalu said the project really pushed her out of her comfort zone. Before the project, all of her digital pieces felt a little unfinished, and she never really loved them. This was the first time she felt proud of herself and really put her ideas into action.
Professor Ben Sowards was her mentor for the BFA project. He helped her narrow down the kinds of pieces she wanted to create and helped her discover why she wanted to be an artist. Her art reflects that discovery.
“Ben Sowards has always been an inspiring teacher and inspiring artist to me and having him as a mentor was really exciting,” said Kamalu. “His Digital Illustration class was also a huge step toward the paintings I finished for the show. Before that class I didn't understand at all how people painted with a computer, and learning those basic skills have definitely helped me advance to where I am now.”
As for the future, Kamalu hopes to pursue something in the illustration field or in graphic design. Her ultimate goal is to find a successful job pertaining to art.