Conversation with Kimia Ferdowsi Kline

Conversation with Kimia Ferdowsi Kline

“Living and painting on campus made me feel rooted in the community in a way I hadn’t experienced in other residency programs.” – Kimia Ferdowsi Kline

This month NYFA interviewed Basil Alkazzi Artist-in-Residence, Kimia Ferdowsi Kline. Kimia is a New York based painter and was a semi-finalist for the Basil H. Alkazzi Award for Excellence, in Painting this year. The Basil Alkazzi Artist-in-Residence is a five-week residency at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. The residency is open to artists working in the medium of painting who are specifically interested in exploring the impact of light on their artistic practice.

NYFA: You’ve participated in a couple of residency programs already, what about your Detroit residency sets this opportunity apart from others?

Kimia Ferdowsi Kline: This is the first residency I’ve participated in that was linked to a university, which gave me the opportunity to engage with students and local artists. Living and painting on campus made me feel rooted in the community in a way I hadn’t experienced in other residency programs. It’s also the first residency I’ve had that’s followed by a solo show, which is an incredible opportunity and gives the experience added continuity.

NYFA: Detroit and New York are both art-centric cities, in your experience, how does the artistic community in Detroit differ from the community in New York? What opportunities do Detroit artists benefit from that we perhaps lack here in New York (and vice-versa)?

KFK: I think the biggest difference is scale. New York is full of galleries, museums, project spaces, and hosts international art fairs every year, so the amount of work you’re exposed to as an artist living and working here is vast. In my experience, Detroit has a more local focus in regards to their art community, though it seems like there is an increased presence of international artists. The difference in scale is both positive and negative. While we have so much access to so many different things in New York, sometimes it’s overwhelming and becomes difficult to feel any traction in your career as an emerging artist. Detroit’s smaller scale might be limiting at times, but artists seem to have the time and space and exposure to nurture new and exciting work, particularly at the early stages of their careers.

NYFA: You were actually living on the Wayne State campus and working with Wayne State students, can you tell us what it was like to work with the students, and live back on an undergraduate campus?

KFK: I really love teaching, so working with the students was wonderful. I worked with both the undergraduate and graduate art students, and they were all very thoughtful and curious and welcoming.

Living on a college campus totally spoiled me−I forgot how convenient everything is!


NYFA: Please tell us about what you do here in New York. How do you balance curating the permanent collection at the Wythe Hotel and your individual art practice?

KFK: I view curating the collection there as an extension of my studio practice. It’s not so common for an artist to double as a curator, but it’s proven to be a really great balance for me. When I began finding work for the Hotel’s permanent collection, I was initially focused on finished pieces: photographs, paintings, prints. But then we shifted our focus to purchasing sketchbooks and in progress works. Connecting our guests to the Brooklyn creative community is what I try to do in every room with the art we install, and sketchbooks are accessible and fascinating. They peel back a layer of mystery between the viewer and the artist, and that searching, creative “sketchbook space” is a really exciting one to witness.

I also curate a rotating installation space in the lobby that features site-specific work. I’m really excited to announce that our next installation is by Detroit-based artist Ellen Rutt whose work I discovered while I was in Detroit. This collaboration feels like a perfect example of how the effects of the residency will continue to carry over into my work here in NYC.  

NYFA: Did your time in Detroit influence your work?

KFK: I don’t know that the city of Detroit itself influenced the work, but the time and space I had allowed me to work much larger than I’ve been able to do in my Brooklyn studio. The larger work is something I’d very much like to continue, and I think will ultimately play a role in shifting my work to feel more immersive.

NYFA: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects in New York or Detroit?

KFK: My solo show at Turn Gallery, “Landscapes For the Hungry” just came down, and now I’m working on creating a new body of work for my show in Detroit opening April 8, at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery. It’s a 3,500 square foot gallery with 310 feet of running wall space, so I have lots of work ahead of me!

For more information on the Basil H. Alkazzi Award for Excellence click here.

To find out about the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University visit


From left to right: John Richardson (Professor and Chair of James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University), Kimia Ferdowsi Kline (Artist), and Michael Royce (Executive Director, NYFA)

About Basil Alkazzi:

The British artist Basil Alkazzi is a prolific and, in his own words, a “compulsive” painter. His distinguished career as an artist spans almost 50 years. Six monographs of work have been published, which includes The Rites of Spring by Donald Kuspit, Resonant Echoes – The Art of Basil Alkazzi by Dennis Wepman, and An Odyssey of Dreams – A Decade of Paintings 2003-2012 by Donald Kuspit. His work is held in many museums and public collections in the United States and abroad.  In addition to being a gifted painter, Basil Alkazzi is also a generous philanthropist supporting other artists. In 1986, he established The Basil H. Alkazzi Foundation Awards, at the Royal College of Art in London, and where more recently he established, with a major endowment in memorial for his late brother The Ali H. Alkazzi Scholarship Award also in Painting. A cosmopolitan, he has traveled widely for long periods of time, and has lived and exhibited in London and U.S.A. He currently resides in the Principality of Monaco in the South of France.

For more information on Basil Alkazzi visit his website at

– Madeline Scholl (Program Associate, Alumni Relations and 30th Anniversary)

Images, from top: Studio shot from Wayne State University by Kimia Ferdowsi Kline, 2015; Painting in progress by Kimia Ferdowsi Kline, 2015; Image courtesy of NYFA and Wayne State University, from left to right: John Richardson (Professor and Chair of James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University), Kimia Ferdowsi Kline (Artist), and Michael Royce (Executive Director, NYFA), 2015.

Amy Aronoff
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