Featured Artist Q & A:
The Undercover Artist
For over 20 years, Kerri Warner has been involved in Sacramento’s not-for-profit world, holding executive level positions at organizations like the Sacramento Ballet and Hands on Sacramento. But what many may not know is that the cheery do-gooder is also a talented and prolific mixed-media artist. Read on to learn more about this month’s undercover artist and her out-of-the-box upbringing.
1. What is something interesting about you that people might be surprised to hear?
For a lot of people it would be that I am an artist. For over 20 years, I’ve worked on the business/administrative side of various not-for-profit organizations, I’ve been the executive director of the Sacramento Ballet, the director of Hands on Sacramento, and most recently as the executive director of the California Conservation Corps Foundation. I’m best known for my strategic planning, fundraising, budgeting and administrative skills so people don’t often know that I have a creative side.
2. With no formal training as a visual artist, how did you make the leap to becoming a muralist and mix-media and graphic artist?
Throughout my life, the arts have been a major influence on who I am, how I approach challenges and how I celebrate successes. My grandparents, Justus and Alice Wyman were vaudevillians who toured with Fanchon and Marco in the 1920s. They moved the family to Sacramento in 1942. In 1956, my parents and grandparents started Sacramento’s first year-round community theater JayRob Productions which operated here for over 17 years.
My childhood afternoons were spent taking dance and music lessons, building and painting sets, watching rehearsals and helping with the day-to-day operations of the theater company. In high school, I began working as a graphic artist for my mother’s marketing and advertising business, which influenced me to major in radio, film and television once I got into college. I honed my graphic design skills when I completed my upper division units in animation–I hand painting cells and even captured stories frame-by-frame on an Acme animation stand (yes, they do exist!).
So throughout my life I have had many opportunities to connect to the arts, developing my artistic skills through a wide variety of experiences. In the past five years, I’ve had more time to devote to producing art and am moving towards becoming an artist on a full-time basis.
Newspaper clippings of JayRob Production reviews.
3. How has the Sacramento region and artist community influenced your creative process?
Born and raised in Sacramento I am excited to witness and be part of Sacramento’s vibrant and growing art scene. There are so many amazing performing and visual artists here and more and more places to learn about and experience the arts. I am constantly inspired by the artists I meet here and look forward to continuing to be a part of the creative community.
4. You have an on-going portrait series. Why have you selected people to be your subjects?
I never intended to be a figurative or portrait artist–the human form just seems to keep showing up in my work. The majority of portraits I have done have been commissioned.
One of the first collage portraits I did was of Jane Hill, former Executive Director of the Sacramento Philharmonic. I wanted to do something special as a retirement gift. I gathered some printed information from the philharmonic intending to collage it into a painting. I wanted to make the piece personal and representative of her time here in Sacramento and decided what better way than to build a portrait. The finished piece incorporates sheet music, brochures, book pages and some found objects.
One of Warner’s first collage portraits was a retirement gift to former Sacramento Philharmonic Executive Director, Jane Hill.
5. These collage portraits are very intricate and meaningful. How long does it take for you to produce a collage?
The time it takes to develop and produce my collage work varies depending on the size and details of the subject. Portraits take longer since I’m trying to capture the spirit and uniqueness of each subject. On average I spend three to four weeks on each piece. I like working in a large format because it allows me to use a variety of printed materials. In my commissioned portrait work, people give me various mementos from the subject’s life; announcements, newspaper articles, brochures from work, tickets from a first date or special occasion to use. If I’m using a one of a kind paper or object, I take the time to make a pattern prior to making any cuts to it.
6. Aside from your art, what are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about my family. I’ll be celebrating 30 years of marriage in June. My husband helps with my artistic pursuits by building the wood panels and helpings with the heavy welding and scary saw work needed on some projects. We have three children and two grandchildren.
7. You have done a lot of great work with the River City Food Bank. Tell us more about your project with them and why you decided to support their cause (over other local charitable organizations)?
I believe everyone should get involved and give back to their community. I have always volunteered for various organizations and in the past few years have integrated my artistic side by leading art oriented projects needed by the organization or by donating my work to help raise funds. I am a founding member of the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Project Inspire program. The program is a giving circle that invites Sacramento residents to maximize their contributions by pooling their donations into one philanthropic fund which The Sacramento Region Community Foundation invests and manages. Each year, the donors vote on a local nonprofit that will receive a grant; in January of 2011, the River City Food Bank was selected to be that recipient.
The great thing about Project Inspire is that it is about more than just donating funds; it’s about getting involved and getting to know the nonprofits in our area. River City Food Bank had experienced a fire in November of 2010 and had lost their facility. The Project Inspire grant was used to help them remodel and open a new facility. I donated my time to design and execute (with other volunteers) a mosaic on the front of the building and among other things, created a series of watercolor and pencil portraits titled “The Faces of Hunger.” The original works were auctioned to raise funds for Food Bank programs and copies of five of the portraits hang in the lobby of the new facility.
8. Any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with us?
Kerri Warner’s “The Weekly Meeting.”
Interview by Sacramento365’s Content & Social Media Coordinator Jamila Khan.