SHAWNA KHALILY– BIOGRAPHY

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Shawna Khalily


I was a figure drawer from the start, which led to my training as a printmaker, which led to my self-training as a woodcutter. I grew up with a love for drawing and with a love for wood. My father collected varieties of wood throughout
my childhood and he made much of our furniture, playhouses, decks etc. We had log cabin walls in the basement and we harvested our own wood for winter fires in the home. I'm told that as a small child, as soon as I could pick up a pencil and make marks I was drawing little rudimentary people on the walls surrounding my bed. Big heads with legs and arms, hair but no bodies, smiling faces. My mother would roll over the drawings occasionally with paint, and I would just start over. In high school I loved having the model, clothed in black leotards, come in and pose on top of the tables. I was a gymnast then and I watched the chiseled, bouncing bodies all around me. I did gesture drawings from the gymnastics magazines I collected at
the time. I also drew my friends from life and from photos. I copied album covers, rock magazines, comic books were my passion and I LOVED coloring in coloring books, getting lost for hours riding in the van on long trips blending & gradating colors, filling up books in mere hours, a feeling I carry to this day at my desk some 40 years on. It feels very natural for me
to make a figurative drawing on a smooth piece of wood, then carve it, then print it, then color it.

I was trained in a printmaking specialized college in the late 80s. The Art Academy of Cincinnati gave me the foundation
to enter into the medium of woodcuts later on with an emphasis on etching and lithography. I remember a boy from Japan working on woodcuts in our etching class and our professor helping him; me watching close, but per se, Woodcutting was
not offered in the curriculum. I developed an interest in spite of myself, carving out drawings via linoleum block printing
and small scale woodcuts with bad tools and cheap wood after I graduated. I had been collecting books about the revival of Japanese woodcuts in Europe and I loved the graphic richness and power of relief printing in general. In 1998, I had a 3 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. I left them briefly for one of the first times to attend The Mid-America Printmaking Conference sponsored by my school in conjunction with NKU and UC. There I found the work of Thom Shaw. His monumental black
and white woodcut prints - so large they were done on masonite and had to be printed by a team - these epic, fierce, highly charged images reflected the wretched urban chaos and certain decay of a mid-western river city I once called my home.
They seemed to audibly scream out at me. Technically they contained the entire history of woodcutting, but especially that German sense of depth, truth, anguish, power, craft ... such primal things. Spiritually, they shed light to the shadows illuminating some of the very reasons why I left that city. More importantly, and after attending his demonstration, they
lit up like a neon sign what the rest of my life would be devoted to.

"The two most important days of your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain

I live in Louisville, Kentucky. My home is called Kasbah Khalily, which I share with my two children, almost ready for college, and my two Australian Shepherds. The adjoining studio is called Gallery ExVoto. An image of this Latin phrase is my print stamp and is also a tattoo on my left arm. It means a work of art as a sacred gift or offering.

 

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