Artist, Filmmaker and Curator Juri Koll

Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on artist, filmmaker and curator Juri Koll!

How many years in Venice?  Living and working here since 1981 – so that’d be 37 years.

Tell us about your art/medium?
After drawing constantly as a kid, I picked up a camera and started to see how putting a lens between myself and the world could help define me as a human being and as part of a community, whether it was one image at a time or in moving pictures. It was a way to see the world. Then I began to paint again and use both painting and camera-based work as my media. I believe painting gives you a freedom to come up with something unique and in the moment with color, line, shape, and composition – of course along with subject matter even if it’s strictly abstract. The camera allows me to connect with our world, whether man made or otherwise.

How many years and how did you get into it?  I’ve been doing photography for 43 years. I got into it because I didn’t want to be in pictures that my adopted family were taking – I felt like an outsider, so I’d offer to take the pictures. Gradually I realized it was a new way to find out who I was and what I cared about. By the time I was 16 or 17 I was showing regularly. I’ve been painting for 30 years. I got into it because my girlfriend at the time was (and is still) a major painter – basically she can paint anything from abstract to figurative and was a huge influence on me. When we separated I picked up a brush and started painting and never stopped.

Describe your style:

  • Photography: Natural lighting mostly, in the moment, searching for things right in front of me.
  • Painting: It’s a combination of elements not used together mostly – oil pastel and watercolor – used in abstract/figurative ways. It’s been compared to street art (sort of) and color is probably the most dominant part of the work. I believe color determines how we look at painting – even over line and form.

Photo courtesy of Juri Koll

What would you say has had the largest impact upon your particular style?  The fact that I was not formally trained as a painter. I never took a class – maybe one drawing class at Cal Arts. I never looked at how-to books. I don’t believe the term “self-taught” is ever really accurate. We learn by watching everything and everyone. So I’d say the necessity of using materials in a new way, materials that appealed to me in a fundamental, almost rudimentary way.

What projects are you currently working on?  I am doing a series called Fake News. They have focused on Russian and Mexican journalists who have been assassinated with impunity by the powers-that-be in their respective countries. The next group of paintings I’ve just started are on the people who were brave enough to begin the Journey of Reconciliation in 1946, which developed into what is known as the Freedom Riders in 1961, traveling through the South to challenge segregation on public transportation.

Upcoming shows:

  • Beyond Baroque 50th Anniversary Celebration – Auction – November 10, 2018
  • World Street Art (untitled) – Street Art – ViCA/Pedro Gallery – January/February, 2019
  • “Edge to Edge” A Baltic/American exchange, Summer 2019 ViCA/Pedro and venues in the Baltics.

What accomplishments, projects, or pieces that you are most proud of?  


Where do you find inspiration?  People and their lives. How they survive, thrive.

What brings you to the arts and how has it helped your life?  Please see my other answers, but I believe art is vital to the long-term viability of every community – wherever it happens to be. It promotes community, communication, and freedom of speech and movement, which are vital to making choices.

Among the many artists who’ve created here in Venice, who are your favorites?  John Altoon, Scott Greiger, Cronk, Fred Eversley, Mark “Funcrime” Munski, Martha Alf, Peter Alexander, Jean Edelstein, Catherine Ruane of course Bob Branaman. So many more!

Past art projects?  Any pieces shown in Venice?  See the website. I did a show called “Venice: Here and Now” at the Mike Kelly Gallery and “Venice: Now & Then” at the same place. Also “The Book of the Dad” about my father and my work there too. In 1991 I showed a documentary called “Mark di Suvero: In The Steel” at LA Louver and it’s now in the Smithsonian. Can’t you tell I LOVE Venice?

With John Hogg, Barbara Kolo and Juri Koll at Beyond Baroque. Photo courtesy of Juri Koll

Finish off the statement “Art is… is life.”

What advice would you give someone starting out in your field? Work hard, enjoy your work, and don’t look for recognition – just do it because it’s is as important to you as breathing. Your work will be unique to you as a result, and that’s what every artist strives for.

Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote:  Work at your art everyday. There is no approval.

Photo courtesy of Juri Koll

Favorite book, band or movie?

  • Book – too many to count.
  • Bands – too many to count, but everything from Miles Davis to Janes Addition to Bob Dylan to John Lee Hooker and the blues guys, to Led Zepellin to the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, fuck the list is too long.
  • Movies – love ’em.

What causes do you support?

  • Safe Place For Youth
  • Beyond Baroque
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Estonian American National Council
  • Baltic American Freedom League.

What’s one thing we can do to make the world a better place?  Make art and show it.

List 1-2 things on your bucket list, and 1-2 on your VENICE bucket list:

  • Surf on every continent
  • Visit a gallery and an artist studio on every continent – especially India and Africa ETC
  • Open a museum in Venice – that’s what ViCA is all about.

Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? Fun facts or accomplishments?  Just do your art. And enjoy living here – and take care of your community and your friends.

Photo courtesy of Juri Koll

Venice Questions:

Describe your perfect day in Venice:  Surf, make art, surf, see a band, write, make art.

What Venice places would you take a visiting artist friend?  Artist’s studios – do it all the time.

What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?  Too many to name. And names would have to be changed to protect the innocent.

Anything else about Venice that you would like to say?  Respect the people who live here, their studios, and their history when you visit.

Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?  Emmitt who runs the Bookstore at Beyond Baroque. I have a list!

How can one find you?

Other Website:

Thank You to Our Partners