Meet Ken Draim. As a distinguished artist in Taos, New Mexico, he’s now making the move to Pittsburgh to continue his work with automata and kinetic sculpting. With Pittsburgh’s thriving art scene, he’s excited to start creating in our city.
How did you get started in creating automata and kinetic sculpture?
I built my first automaton in 2010. It depicts a chef frantically cooking in the kitchen of an old brick building. Pots are bubbling, pans shaking and fans spinning. The chef automaton was a huge leap from the rustic, folk art ship models I had been building. Since that first piece, I’ve enjoyed exploring the interaction of engineering and art. I incorporate found objects and crazy mechanical connections into the many pieces I’ve made. I loved watching visitors who come to my gallery, initially nervous, reach out, turn the handle, and break into a smile as they bring the work to life. It’s approachable and not just an object to passively view. The viewer is a co-creator by setting it in motion.
Are there any other aspects of art you enjoy working with?
I got my degree in painting at Washington University in St. Louis, and spent many years painting fractured cubist watercolors and oils, then drifted to sculpture. I always wanted to break out of two dimensions. The automatons allow me to to break that constraint. There is a dialog between the engineering, and the motions I want articulated. I would love to eventually build pieces that you could walk into, interact with and become fully immersed in.
You grew up in Paris – has that inspired your work throughout your life?
Living in Paris for several years as a child has definitely been an inspiration to me. The paintings at the Louvre fascinated me. Huge canvases, epic battles, giant figures, angels – it was magic. But it’s not just the amazing artwork that left an impression; the old buildings, the sense of history, the tastes and smells of my childhood continue to inspire. I love to incorporate rough stone, rusted metal, aged wooden beams and other textural elements to my work to give the feeling of age and history.
You’re moving from Taos, New Mexico to Pittsburgh – what do you expect to see in the Pittsburgh art community?
I find Pittsburgh very inspiring. The steampunk, rusted, industrial quality in my work is a perfect mesh with Pittsburgh. I love the distinctive neighborhoods, the beautiful scenery and the remnants of it’s rich history and industrial past. I feel that the Pittsburgh art community will be a bit more adventurous and edgy. There is a great foundation to work from, with all the amazing museums, galleries and community support.
What are your plans while working in Pittsburgh?
I had an art gallery in Taos, but feel that it is in Pittsburgh that my art will truly find a home. I am buying a small house on the South Side with a studio where I can’t wait to get to work with the vibrant energy of Pittsburgh to inspire me. I hope to collaborate with other artists, perhaps build an interactive exhibit, teach…who knows.