We had the good fortune of connecting with Kendra Sollars and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kendra, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
Growing up in the competitive sport of Artistic Swimming (formerly called Synchronized Swimming) has had an immense impact on the habits I’ve developed. At an early age, I developed a goal oriented mindset, a dedication to developing a skill and craft, and the ability to collaborate with a team. I went on to swim for one of the top teams in the country at The Ohio State University while pursuing my art degree, so I quickly learned important time management skills to balance my sport and my education successfully. These skills and habits have been instrumental in my successes in my art career. I still balance a full time day job with my art career, so time management skills continue to come into use every day.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work explores our human interconnectedness with the natural world, particularly with water. I often using my own physical form as the subject of my work. My medium is often video, but also includes photography, performance, and installation. My work is very much influenced by my history as a competitive Artistic Swimmer. One of my most recent projection pieces titled “Synthesis”, is a re-imagination of the human form as native Arizona plant species as they blossom and grow. I use my own physical form, filmed underwater to layer and choreograph movements reminiscent of a variety of desert plant species. In the same way that a synchronized swimmer’s rhythm and timing is critical to the success of the team, the synchrony of ecological events is essential to the fitness of the ecosystem. Using physical shape and form alone, I am focused on visually representing not only how similar our human form can be to that of plants, but also how vital plants are to our survival, rendering us and plants as one in the same. In addition to this artwork, I also consider myself a ‘maker’, in that my creative interests encompass construction, home remodeling, design, and various DIY endeavors. I am self taught in this area and continue to expand my knowledge in creating unique spaces, particularly in and around my own home.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In recent months, I have been thinking a lot about where my love for creativity began and how it has evolved over time. So first, I’ll focus on my earlier life and the support and mentorship of people who may not be aware that they had an influence on my artistic path. Growing up, my parents always fostered creativity in my life. I was fortunate enough to be competitive in a very creative sport, Artistic Swimming (also known as Synchronized Swimming). I was also involved in a program called Odyssey of the Mind for many years, which was a worldwide creative-thinking and problem solving competitions for kids. Both of these activities really pushed me to be creative whether through choreography, story telling, problem solving, or other facets of visual and performance art. I have had a wide range of creative interests as far back as I can remember and that began in large part a result of my parents’ encouragement of creative expression. Over the years of competition in Artistic Swimming, I also had numerous coaches who supported me and mentored me. One in particular being my collegiate coach at The Ohio State University, Holly Vargo Brown. She was not only our coach but truly a mentor not only in sport and creativity, but in life. She often pushed me to my limits mentally and physically, but her dedication to our success in the sport and her guidance of our creative storytelling through choreography was unmatched. During my time at The Ohio State University, I was also pursuing my art degree so I would often stay late at the pool to work on my artistic endeavors. My teammates certainly deserve a shoutout for consistently being willing participants in my undergraduate work. I am not sure how aware Holly was that I was regularly working on my art at the pool after our 3-4 hour practices, but she certainly did not oppose it. After college, I began coaching young swimmers and was able to coach alongside some of my own former coaches. In particular, my former coach turned co-coach, Lorette Haynes, gave me nearly sole control of all choreography and always encouraged my creative decisions. Later on, when I was selected as an artist/performer for Cirque du Soleil’s ‘O’ in Las Vegas, she encouraged me without question to pursue this creative dream while I continued to coach part-time. More recently, I have been so fortunate to collaborate with artist Lauren Strohacker on our ongoing, large-scale video projection series, “Animal Land”. This project and our partnership have been so rewarding over the years and I’m very thankful for our collaboration. I have been very fortunate throughout my life to have had these creative mentors, supporters, and collaborators in so many different creative disciplines.
All photos taken by Kendra Sollars