The Artist

Gunpowder is a medium that encourages my desire to artistically experiment. The variables and reactions are endless and not being able to completely predict nor control the final outcome is part of what draws me to it. Seeing the result after igniting a piece is always exciting – sometimes it’s fantastic, occasionally it’s a lesson in what not to do.

I love that my gunpowder work often creates wonder, engages thought and sometimes provokes interesting questions (both personally and culturally) because it is a substance more often associated with destruction than beauty. It seems to often be an interesting vehicle for opening cross-cultural and interests dialogue and providing unexpected ways of gaining a new perspective. Working with a medium where mistakes can’t be redone, painted over, or erased unlike the other work I’ve done, can be mentally and emotionally challenging at times.

The continual process of learning to create art with a material that is typically thought of as destructive also reminds me to be nonjudgmental and open to different processes of art, individuals and cultures. Individually our lives are different and culturally they can be worlds apart. When I am open (vs closed and judgmental) is when both myself and someone else begins to understand each others views about art and life.

 How I discovered Gunpowder as an art medium: As an artist who shoots USPSA (United States Practical Shooter Association) competition it was only a matter of time before I discovered Cai Quo-Qiang’s work.  Cai is the originator of gunpowder art, a world renounded gunpowder artist, and the master-mind behind the Beijing Olympic fireworks. I was captivated by his art, immediately tried it… and fell in love with gunpowder as an art medium.

Creating art with gunpowder is kind of like life – no matter how well you plan and prepare you will get unexpected results. So it’s much more enjoyable to let go of things you can’t control, not become to attached to the outcome, and enjoy the journey. ~ KJ


The Process

All artworks are original, and created by burning 140# watercolor or 90# bristol paper with gunpowder. Various types and amounts of gunpowder are put on the paper along with organic objects, inorganic objects and/or templates depending on the desired result. The work is then covered with another paper and the gunpowder is ignited. The powder burns fast enough to flash burn the paper but not long enough to actually catch the paper on fire. The process is then repeated in various ways and as many as over 20 times to achieve the final art.

Burning gunpowder art