Local visual artist pursues her dreams in LA
By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
Visual artist and fervent photographer Cornelia “Connie” Kurtew lived in San Diego for nearly two decades before packing up and moving north to pursue the opportunities that Los Angeles might offer her.
Now, just two years later, Kurtew is about to put her works on display at a major exhibition during LA Fashion Week, called “Art Hearts Fashion,” Oct. 5 – 8.
Founded by philanthropist Erik Rosete — who is also a designer and the creative director for the Mister Triple X fashion label — “Art Hearts Fashion” is being produced by Parker Whitaker Productions along with the AIDS Health Care Foundation, its benefactor.
Inspired by the music of Bob Dylan from the age of 10, Kurtew emigrated from the East German town of Leipzig to Southern California in 1998, hoping one day to meet her favorite musician.
Kurtew touched down in San Diego at a time when she could barely speak English, and her drive landed her concurrent jobs at Landmark Cinemas and the Livingroom, both in Hillcrest. After taking the initiative to seek out online computer courses, she later branched out and eventually found herself in the IT department at UC San Diego.
Photography was never far from her mind, however, and she kept busy shooting weddings, portraits, taking photography classes and wandering the streets of San Diego, photographing and sharing all the things that caught her eye.
As she got more involved in the local LGBT community, she began photographing LGBT events in San Diego, Palm Springs and LA, many filled with celebrities, and soon became a highly sought after staple at red carpet events.
Since the move to LA in August 2013, Kurtew has expanded her artistic reach even further and is now collaborating with other artists. With two smaller shows under her belt earlier this year, she is looking forward to “Art Hearts Fashion.”
“I am excited because it is the first big event for me displaying my art since I moved to LA,” she said. “I am also very excited to support such a great event, which benefits the AIDS Health Care Foundation. It is very important to me as I have several friends who have been directly affected.”
Eugene Huffman, another LA-based artist, has been involved with “Art Hearts Fashion” for several years as one of its resident HIV-positive artists. The abstract expressionist — who goes by “liebeKunst” professionally — helped bring Kurtew on board.
“Connie is not only a talented photographer — she is also an esteemed colleague, a cherished friend, and near and dear to my heart,” Huffman said. “We met at the Stigma Project launch party a couple years ago and hit it off instantly. She is now my ‘partner in creative crime,’ as I like to call it.”
With the focus of the event generally on the fashion design side, Huffman decided to take his graphic arts background and do additional promotion of each of the participating artists this year. You can find more info about the event and the bios he created at tinyurl.com/phujvjs.
Though Kurtew’s well-rounded portfolio continues to expand, she said the exhibition will display her most recent work and interests.
“I am very involved and passionate about portraiture,” she said. “I get to show people how I see them and the world around them.”
Friends in San Diego know Kurtew not only for her unique artistic talents, but also for her larger-than-life personality, smile and boisterous laughter. When she moved to LA to chase her artistic dreams, she left a great many friends behind. One of those friends, Kathleen Stone, recently agreed to be a portraiture model for the photographer.
“She has an amazing eye and a knack for ideas,” Stone said. “She makes you feel comfortable immediately in front of the camera — even if being photographed is not your thing. She is creative, easy to work with, open to suggestions, and she is also a dear personal friend.”
While Kurtew will be featured in a gallery show in Long Beach next month, neither she nor Huffman will share too many details about what the future may hold for them.
For now, their sights are set on Fashion Week.
“We have plans to combine our visual and artistic talents and creative vision, so there are upcoming projects and collaborations we have in the works,” Huffman said. “So watch out Los Angeles … this German duo has things in store for you!”
“Art Hearts Fashion” launches Oct. 4 with a red carpet and opening party at the W Hotel, Hollywood. The art exhibition and fashion show takes place Oct. 5 – 8, at the Taglyan Cultural Complex, located at 1201 Vine St. in Los Angeles. For more information visit artheartsfashion.com.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.