Artwork fuses architectural, landscape images
Ashland resident Corey Kahn balances her work as an emergency physician with a career in art.
By Vickie Aldous
Posted Jun. 12, 2015 at 12:01 AM
An art school graduate, Corey Kahn was employed as a mental health worker helping homeless people in an emergency housing program when she stumbled upon her future career path.
Occasionally she was tasked with taking clients to a hospital emergency room for medical care and tests.
“The first time I went to the ER with a resident, a lightbulb went off,” she recalled. “There were people with knowledge helping people when it really counted.”
Kahn went back to college for two years of pre-med coursework, attended medical school and then did a three-year residency.
She now works as an emergency physician at Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford.
Despite the demands of her profession, Kahn remains committed to her art, which includes abstract, figurative and landscape painting. She is one of five artists working in a new studio space carved out of the back of the former Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper building on Siskiyou Boulevard. (Tidings Editor Bert Etling and his Ashland reporters work from their home offices while the newspaper is printed at Mail Tribune facilities in Medford.)
Kahn said creating art helps her bring order and beauty to a world that can seem chaotic and arbitrary in a hospital emergency room.
“Someone can take a step, slip, hit their head on a sink and die,” she said of the senseless tragedies healthcare workers witness.
Before her eureka moment in the emergency room with a homeless client, Kahn had long struggled with balancing her need to create art with her desire to help others.
After art school, she lived in Czechoslovakia for two years, painting and exhibiting her work. She started a volunteer program that allowed foreigners to volunteer for nonprofit organizations in the country, which had a history of communism and eventually split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“The idea of volunteering was foreign to them because of their communist background. It was met with a lot of suspicion,” Kahn said. “They thought, ‘Why would people want to work for free?’ I really wanted to do more and be able to give more.”
With her medical skills, Kahn has since done humanitarian work, including going to Haiti in 2011 to provide medicine, supplies and healthcare to residents struggling after a devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010.
On the artistic side, Kahn has been focused on melding landscape painting with architectural drawings for the past year. Each artwork starts with a landscape photo as a reference and melds realism with abstract elements like fields of color and dripping paint.
Just as an X-ray can reveal the skeletal framework of the body, an architectural drawing shows the underlying structure of a home or building.
“When I’m making a painting, the idea of the essence of something is really at the forefront for me,” Kahn said.
She said her paintings often deal with dualities, capturing the balance and tension she feels on the job and in life. In one large six-foot-by-four-foot-painting, the horizon is indistinct as the earth fades into the sky.
“The sky is turning into the ground, and the ground is turning into the sky,” Kahn said. “There’s a play on what looks flat, and what looks three-dimensional; on what is natural versus what is man-made; what is close and what is far away.”
Kahn’s studio space is open by appointment.