Mother Musing: kHyal: Biology’s Fast One

Mother Musing

kHyal is most known for her self-portrait photography and assemblage, multi-media installations, character design and fashion-based work. She was also an early adopter of technology and is part of the Women’s Internet History Project. kHyal was commissioned to create her first series of public art projects in Los Angeles in 1985, featuring original character design. Her work was chosen for “CODE”—an international juried exhibition of top artists working in digital media—at Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York in 1995; sponsored by Microsoft, Apple, Softimage and Silicon Graphics.

kHyal’s son Tyler is twenty-three years old. He works part-time as a Technology Assistant and freelances as a Network Security Professional and Online Gaming Administrator, while concurrently studying to become an Ethical Hacker.

Artist Websites: kHyal.com and MegaGlam.com


SB: Can you tell me what you’re currently working on?

k: I’m currently obsessed with a number of things:

  1. Merging character design and fashion by creating apparel from original designs and wearing the work to art and design events. I’ve had a lifelong passion for treating my body as a kinetic sculpture and this is the ultimate culmination.
  2. A series of “corporate” character art imaged on vinyl and other substrates that are traditionally used for business graphics and tradeshows.
  3. A series of character art imaged as lawn signs that would typically bear political messages or cheap marketing pleas like “cash for gold.”
  4. A series of character designs images on household objects produced as commercial products.

I consider the first three my form of street fashion, corporate outbreak and street art.

I’ve also been combining all the work together into storefront installations, which seems to create delight and confusion for viewers. What seems like a retail store at first glance, is ultimately not open for commerce. Although, some of the products can be purchased through my online store and other retail outlets, the installations are not truly functional.

SB: Did you always know you wanted to have children?

k: No. Having a child was a total surprise. I had never spent time with young children, and didn’t have a desire to be around them, or have a family of my own. Though when I became pregnant with Tyler, biology pulled a fast one, and suddenly I was thrilled about the idea.

Some of my past work was quite dark, now the opposite is true. However, the childlike qualities people point to in my work have nothing to do with children. It’s not created for, or inspired by them, it’s simply my inner world. I think that’s a surprise to some.

SB: Did being an artist give you any hesitation about being a parent?

k: Yes! I don’t know anyone who is serious about their art career that isn’t worried about, or bothered by, interruptions in developing their work. I was no exception, and the result was that my son was incorporated into my art-making process. He had his own space in my studio and I shared materials with him. I hope that was a good experience for him. It meant making things and using his imagination all the time. I can’t think of any downside to that.

During his childhood, I also co-founded a software publishing company and an interactive/software development agency with a gallery in it. He always had a desk in our offices, and spent a lot of time during school vacations there with me, as well as traveling to tradeshows and other industry and art events. Since I raised him primarily on my own and never used a babysitter, there weren’t many other options. Because he has chosen a career path in technology, I’m thrilled that I exposed him to that world early on. He was immersed in the cutting edge worlds of Silicon Alley, the tech startups in San Francisco and all kinds of other creative influences that no doubt shaped his choices now.

SB: Do you think the experience of parenthood has influenced or changed your artwork in any way?

k: I’m not sure, except maybe that he gave me a happier life, which helped me engage in catharsis that brightened my world. Some of my past work was quite dark, now the opposite is true. However, the childlike qualities people point to in my work have nothing to do with children. It’s not created for, or inspired by them, it’s simply my inner world. I think that’s a surprise to some.

SB: Was toxicity of materials ever a concern?

k: Not really. I rarely worked with anything that would be considered toxic while Tyler was growing up, though safety proofing our home and life in other ways did become a priority.

SB: Is your son interested in art or art making?

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k: Although he is innately creative and did attend the School of Visual Arts in New York for a couple of years, he has found his passion in ethical hacking and network security. His talent is evident in the way he interacts with technology. Still, he has a keen eye for design and often gives me his opinion and advice on my commercial work, when he happens to drop into the studio.

SB: Do you have any advice for artist parents on managing studio time?

k: I have tried having a studio away from where I live—even in recent years, now that Tyler is a  young adult—but it doesn’t work for me. When Tyler was young, having a live/work studio was imperative.

SB: Do you have any exhibitions planned?

k: Not formally, but I am always moving my design forward into avenues of distribution. My latest joy is really performance-based work where I insert myself into art events. I’m also a journalist and cover things like Art Basel Miami, Design Miami, the Armory Show and many ancillary art fairs. Now I often do that while wearing my own work—becoming, by default, part of the exhibition.

SB: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

k: I’d like to express my gratitude to my husband, Karl. We met in 2007 when Tyler was just turning 18. He has been an integral part of helping Tyler find his way into young adulthood and into a career that interests him. Knowing Karl has taught me how much better parenting is as a team, and his role has been critical to Tyler’s recent successes. Karl has also become my creative partner and we have collaborated on many projects, including commissioned pop-up stores, product design, developing content for publications in the design trade, producing creative events, and more.

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