Corynn Kokolakis’ series, Mothering into View, was created during her thesis year at OCADU. Painted from a caregiver’s POV, these sensitive, expressive and vivid portraits capture children during stages of transition and development. This distinct longing lies at the heart of motherhood: to hold on to them when they’re small, just a little bit longer. The paintings effectively firm up these fleeting moments—like snapshots.

We chatted with Kokolakis this week.

SDTC: What has played a big role in informing your work?

The work currently reflects my personal focus over the last decade. As a stay-at-home mom to three kids, my experiences with child rearing (both my own and those I interact within in the community) have changed the way I see the world at large. As a result, I’m interested in exploring this perspective artistically. And as an artist who is consistently drawn to the figure, children afford a wide range of movement and expression to capture.

Can you describe what you’ll be presenting at this year’s GradEx?

It’s part of a series developed this past year that features large-scale portraits of children at certain points along their path of development. The series uses an intense child focus to place the viewer in the position of a caregiver and allows space to contemplate what that means. The caregiver-child relationship is most often pictured from the outside. This view of looking out from this perspective is one we are not often given within a larger cultural context.

Walk us through your process to creating a piece.

The paintings are usually sparked by a picture or a moment that resonates with me as a mother. They are not always my own children, but I always have a connection to them in some way. The paintings often bang around in my head for some time before they make it out onto a canvas. I work in an immediate painting style, which means the oil paint is applied wet. This technique leaves hints of the process in the visible brush marks. It’s important to me that my work feels like a painting; it gives them another layer of expression.

How has OCADU helped you develop as an artist?

Beyond the practical, like understanding anatomy, etc., OCADU has taught me how to talk about my work. It has helped me fine-tune my painterly approach alongside my personal voice. It has also provided a space for me to work, think and research outside of a domestic space—something that as a mother and artist, I’m sure I will continue to struggle with for some time.

My thesis advisor Anda Kubis was an amazing resource, and she always seemed to know just what I needed to keep me motivated. I feel so lucky to have had her mentorship. But truthfully, all of my instructors were so impactful. I loved the mature student experience and really enjoyed soaking up all that I could from anyone willing to offer up their expertise.

Fill in the blank. Art is _________.

For me personally, art is like a snorkel. It helps me breathe when I’m underwater. 

See Corynn Kokolakis’ stunning paintings in real life this week at GradEx (May 1-5), taking place at OCADU. Get all the information here.