A Tech education, a steady confidence and a classmate connection help land the work of this multi-talented craftsman on an HBO series about his home.
Title: President, Co-owner of Kotara Studio, LLC
Hometown: Lake Charles
Now resides in: Asheville, NC
Family: Wife Michelle A. Lappas Kotara and son Julian A.L. Kotara, a second grader
Degree: BFA graphic design, ’90; MFA studio, ’93
Tell us a little about what you do: I am a full-time art professional. In Asheville, I founded Kotara Studio, LLC to create, exhibit and sell my one-of-a-kind works of art across the U.S. and worldwide. Currently, I am represented by several Southeast regional galleries, dealers on both coasts, and my works are in many private, public, corporate and museum collections.
What brought you to Tech? Initially, I was drawn to the architecture program at Tech because I have always loved drawing and have had a strong interest in designing space. Architectural design represented a practical application of my natural abilities and interests. However, as I approached the conclusion of the architecture program, I realized that graphic design would provide a more direct path to the art that was forming within me, so I made that transition with a concentration in illustration. After completing my BFA, I was presented with, and accepted, the opportunity to enroll in the MFA studio program.
Why did you choose this career? From early on, being an artist was my true passion and was, for me, the only choice. Before I accepted this as my reality, detours led me into music, athletics and other activities. Fortunately, my creative muse remained intact all the while, and led me to my professional career.
How did Tech help prepare you for life after college? The architecture and graphic design programs at Tech have proven invaluable to my ability to manipulate two- and three-dimensional space, draw with an emphasis on creating good line work, paint with confidence and a willingness to start over, and design using both positive and negative space. It provided a well-rounded education and focused academic structure. The inspirational faculty, in particular professor Edwin Pinkston, fostered in me a professional discipline and strong work ethic. Tech’s programs set the course for my particular vision, developed my passion for philosophy and my ability to objectively critique my work. All of these attributes are essential to the success of my art and business today.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In my experience, the art continually evolves, taking me to new places, both conceptually and geographically. Kotara Studio in the short term and long, will expand and extrapolate on current concepts, revisit past ideas with new twists and continue the exploration of arcane notions and systems which lead me into new ideas and creations. Finally, I will also continue collaborations with other artists, designers and fabricators who are essential to the extension of Kotara Studio, through an even broader network of creative colleagues. With the increasing workload and exhibition schedule, the studio plans to hire additional employees to assist in supporting roles.
Your best memories of Tech: Louisiana Tech and Ruston were my home. I remember Ruston as a place of creativity, awareness, enlightenment and yes, entertainment. And, Tech provided a stimulating and challenging environment where I was able to explore my abilities, mature as an individual and artist, and matriculate with tangible skills rooted in confidence. All of this led directly to the pursuit of my professional passion.
The most rewarding part of your job: Everything I read, think about and see informs my creative muse. This means that my profession is uniquely suited to my way of thinking, skill sets and interests, and every day I get to do what I do best in furtherance of my profession.
Describe your art for us: Conceptually, my work is contemporary, abstract and grid-based, and includes works on canvas, paper and mylar, Braille, screens, Polaroids, sculpture, and site-specific installations. Using multiple media, the art works are developed by creating layers of fractal-based grid systems which are connected and interlaced by way of the organic circulinear lines floating through them. The resulting imagery, for me, is reminiscent of the mysteries of the bayou and patterns found in nature. My sculpture, screen and Braille works employ structured patterns which allow opportunities for the viewer to explore them from multiple angles.
I work toward creating visual meditations on how form is generated by asking, “How does form come into being?” This mystery of form is addressed through an array of disciplines, so I seek out information -- old and new – on biology and geology for physical explanations, and mathematics and the cosmology for the conceptual realms. While the images in my work speak for themselves, they allude to an underlying universal unity.
When did you know you could ‘draw’? I have an innate ability to draw very well. But as with most talents, practice moves toward perfection. I draw every day.
Tell us about how your Tech connection with fellow grad Tim Cohn helped you in regards to the HBO series “Treme”: Tim and I became friends while working together at Trenton Street Cafe (the now-closed Frothy Monkey in downtown Ruston). Although we parted ways after graduation, we have stayed in touch with each other through mutual friends. After seeing my work on the website artistday.com (which posts a different artist daily to a global audience connecting artists to art lovers and professionals), Tim contacted me. When we reconnected, Tim shared with me that he was the set director for HBO, was working on a new series about post-Katrina New Orleans, and he was interested in using my work in the series. After negotiations with HBO, this finally came to fruition in 2010. To have reconnected with a classmate and friend and to be a part of an HBO series about my home place is truly a special experience.
What’s an average day for you and is that the same for most other artists? My studio schedule is variable and is based on the evolving priorities of commissions, installations or exhibitions that are coming to completion, are ongoing or are proposed. Due to the nature of my work and the variety of materials I work with – namely canvas, paper, mylar, fiberglass screen, wood and metal – on any given day I might be painting, drafting, sculpting or designing. To my knowledge, my personal daily routine is quite different from that of other working artists’.
Your advice to Tech freshmen of today: Don’t wait for inspiration to strike, just go to work and inspiration will be there for you.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s…: Open your eyes, and open your mind. It’s a great big and beautiful world out there.