Artist Interviews 2023

Grant Rosen and Micha Kuechenhoff/Artnwordz  
By Laura Siebold

Grant Rosen and Micha Kuechenhoff, better know as Artnwordz, are an artist couple with versatile art, the couple chooses vintage dictionary, atlas, and music sheets, and combines the words on the page with pop art images, thereby fusing words and images. Together, they create iconic images, and wearable art socks, coasters, hats, reusable lunch bags, and pouches. Grant and Micha's artistic background and the wide selection of designs and images has made their art an international success. I am happy to feature these two artists in our anniversary issue, and tell the story behind the creation of Artnwordz, their technique, plus reveal future plans.

Grant and Micha, we spotted your incredible art at the LA Art Show in Los Angeles (2023) and were amazed. Each of your pieces is unique. How do you choose your vintage papers and what determines your choice of subjects?

How do we choose our vintage papers. Good question. It may sound strange, but they almost choose us. When we are sent boxes and boxes of damaged books each month from all over the United States, we comb through them, and sometimes certain sources literally just pop out of the box. We ear mark those books for special pieces. Be it the color intonation or the year of the paper (currently up to 149 years old ). We then sort through the source materials and assign words from those pages to match the artwork!

What determines our choice of subject? Like most artists sometimes its social, topical events, sometimes its timeless subject material that we can put our own unique twist on and other times it is the burning desire to create something that allows us to realllllly say something with the art and the words and paper. All told we are currently at about 8oo creations in our adventure as artists together or separately.

Can you please tell us about the early beginnings of your collaboration? What is your artistic background and when did you first start creating together?

Our early collaborations. How about the very very beginning. The part where I (Grant) actually said NO to Micha about collaborating on art for the public to see. YEP. I said to her originally ìnobody is going to want to see a bicycle or a butterfly on a piece of paper with the word matching, it seems to provincial to me. She didnit let it go and she eventually did one small 5x7 piece to show me. Then she painted an Egyptian scarab about two weeks later and albeit the colors were pretty, I still was hesitant. Now that goes on for 5 weeks until she gets super frustrated with me and says ìOk fine I will keep all the money and not share it with you! Well, I gave it a second thought due to her passion" and said, "Ok we will give it a shot HOWEVER if we do do this, I want to create some of the other crazier pieces you know I have done in the past and you have wanted to do. Deal?" She said "YES"". Sooooo we took our show on the small road to the Pasadena Rose Bowl (one Sunday a month) and, our very first time out, our booth was soooooo busy with people buying our art prints and the small small originals; Micha just stood back and wouldn't help me. She literally stood 20 feet away arms crossed just smiling at me. Lesson learned. That was the early days.

From there we grew our brand of products based on our artworks and the artworks just literally grew and grew in sophistication and applications and size until you find us at the LA ART SHOW and beyond. Yay for us. Our artists backgrounds vary greatly. Micha was a professional cartographer /map maker from Berlin Germany. She knew paper way before me and the tools to paint and scribe on paper. She then moved to America and became a celebrity jewelry designer and did amazing drawings of her jewelry. I was always a professional broadway musical theater performer. A singer/ dancer/ actor all over the U.S and internationally including the original touring company of Beauty and The Beast for almost 5 years. I painted on the backstage of walls as a thank you to producers and cities which the cast would sign. SOME of my designs were incorporated on those walls. What you see now is that collaboration of two skill sets and 4 pairs of eyes, two brains and a coupleis sensibility that creates what you see.

You choose each piece of vintage dictionary, atlas, and music sheets with a specific purpose in mind. How do stories and images work together in your art? What is the language of your work?

The language of our work (working backwards question wise) is words. Literally. We always are fond of saying we truly have something to say. AND our clients love choosing the words to match their commission pieces, as well. Itis a unique and super fun experience. We connect with words on the ìcanvasì; it helps us add another layer of expression to what we are trying to say about a piece, no matter the subject material . Our art funny enough becomes almost multi-level when you think about it. From the piece itself to the papers to the words and then the mixed media to finish pieces. They literally speak to us. And to others. We never know in the end WHY something will move someone but itis always amazing to hear and see at shows and learn that why.

Can you please explain the process of creation? How long does it take to complete one project?

Ok, now you are asking a particular question that if you look closely you will see why I (Grant) have grey hair, a bit at least. It is that part about ìhow long does it take to complete a project. First off, that depends on whether a client changes their mind...uh oh.

Secondly, sometimes it all depends on if the paper does not want to cooperate with us. That means Micha's skills with paper repair come into play.

Thirdly, as everyone knows these days, the mail doesnit always deliver what you ordered. SO, materials can show up late that we need or had to have. THEN, there is the instance where UPS or FED EX etc. decide to run a fork lift through a completed piece with REAL butterflies in it !! That is a true story by the way. We had to create it all over again and so that might have been our longest piece to create. Butterflies fly with real Butterflies. About 8 months between painting, collecting the butterflies again. Placing, framing and delivering. Talk about pressure. BUT the client was super understanding. The average creation can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months. As we say, art takes time.

The process of said creation. Some of our coolest pieces - believe it or not - have been a result of a road trip. Micha and I have cooked up all sorts of awesome concepts driving. Donit know why that is but it is. OR when we are on an airplane. Since we are a couple, we pretty much are together 23/7 which we love and so the ideas fly. Especially from me (Grant). My mind tends to have hamsters running around in the ol head at all hours). Micha needs to wind down. BUT we love love love to people watch, as well, and THAT returns all sorts of benefits for our art concepts. Then we bounce things off each other and refine, throw away, refine again and finally get a piece to where we are both happy. Lastly, there are times because of the way my mind works, where Micha will say, "Huh? Nobody is going to buy that, or get that", and WHAM, we sell it the very next show . Yes, I am now grinning and patting myself on the back, haha.

Do you both work on a project simultaneously, or does each one of you have different roles?

That is a good question and a fun one. We WILL work on projects together. Micha happens to not be as good at eyes in general as I am. Micha is much more refined in her approach and application of the art. I work much quicker and tend to make a bit of work for Micha on the cleanup phase AND - believe it or not - I am a littttttle bit color blind in the green, red department . Thatis why when Micha wakes up in the morning, she has said beforeî hon, why is Marilyn Monroeis face green? !!! ìOops. Or Micha will come up with an idea for an art piece and I let her sleep in, so off I go to the studio portion of our house and I create it. She wakes up. I give her coffee and then she says ìyou stole my art idea, Iim suing you!î So far, she has been kidding about that part. But it can be said we couldnit what we do without each other and our skill sets.

People around the world seem to be fascinated with your art. What do you think is it about your art that causes universal fascination?

We really wish we knew 100 percent, so, that does remain a mystery and yet we are thankful. Not everyone loves our art (some close friends included - whatever) but in total, some to the public, we think maybe itis the presentation, which IS unique compared to other art presentations, and also our style is unique along with how we present the subject material. Secondly, the words having something to do with the piece realllllly lights peopleis imagination and passion for our art. SO, we are thankful for this, as well. Thirdly, Micha and I are quite personable, so when we get to tell our story, it adds another layer when meeting the public and filling them in on us and our creations. OH, and the art sometimes looks like a tattoo on paper, people sometime get tattoos of our art which is pretty cool. NOW, I will close/we will close this section with saying NOT all judges and juries like us enough to jury us in to their ìshowsî; for instance we got into a particular art show last year in a city that sounds an awful lot like ì Cleverly Bills ì BUT this year, NO . Gooooooo, figure. How strange. That portion of being judged is never fun but it is what it is and we find our own way with the mighty support of most who do appreciate what we do in the U.S and internationally. We are fond of saying The critics job is to try and inform the public about art. The artistis job is to inform the critic what their art is really about. Cool, yes?

You've exhibited in many different countries, and just recently came back from Japan. What has been the best experience about exhibiting internationally so far?

Micha is gonna say the food. Ok, kidding a bit, we both loved meeting the public in far off places and seeing their reactions to our art and how moved and appreciative they are. People have been so sweet to us, it almost is barely comprehensible, and we did not start out nor expect this to be the case, and yet we appreciate the grace and kindness of all each and every time, even if there is a language barrier. ( thank goodness for google translate these days; awesome!) The best to date would be probably Japan since it was pushed back for 3 years since 2020 and we just felt so welcomed and people were so delighted to meet us, spend time with us, get autographs and pictures etc. We would sign all manner of paraphernalia for hours on end just because it was some wonderful to smile and see the energy in each personis eyes .

You also create wearable art in the form of socks, backpacks, and pouches. Do you think that art has the power to transform its wearer?

We do believe that and we hear as much, especially in Japan recently. We want to have a coffee table book one day of seeing peopleis faces looking at our art. Not because we matter, but because they do and seeing how people react makes us appreciate everything more. We hear from people about loved ones that passed away, and how our art and products remind them of that loved one, or how our art brings ì good energy ì to their home and pets even. Again, itis a bonus we did not intend ever having had happen, but we are so glad it provides this for people.

In your opinion - what is the purpose of art and the role of the artist? Can art initiate change?

The purpose of art is to be accessible to all, as far as we are concerned and brighten up someoneis day or space or piece of mind, even for just a moment. Art is meant to transport people, make them think. Laugh, cry, share. Art is meant to be collected, yes, but it is also meant to be protected. The role of the artist aside from our quip about critics and judges of art is to inspire, inform, entertain and move people without getting in the way of said art itself. You know the stereotype of the ëdifficult artist ìor temperamental out there artistì? Yes, they do exist, and yes, sometimes they even succeed because of that persona but we feel an artist is supposed to silently curate, as well as actively while not forcing it down anyoneis throat. WE do not try to shock or upset anyone 100 percent. We of course want to say something that lasts and work off the concept of ìWe shout quietlyî, if that makes sense . Yes, art can institute change. It has through the decades, from the great masters to impressionists and the avant grade artists /pop artists. For sure. Some do it with a sledge hammer approach, some do it quietly or sneakily but change does occur where thought/thoughfulness exists. Where culture and people in all societies exist. Be it on a wall or a canvas or a statue, we just do not always see that change immediately but art lasts. It lives on for a reason. And in that sense, itis like having a child. This is a legacy that for better or worse Micha and I can be proud of. Long after we are gone, my daughter will be around and our art hopefully will, as well, to make the world or just a personis life , however that may be .

We are curious about future projects. What are you currently working on and where can we see your art next?

Oh wow. Good closing question. Ok, here [it] goes.
1- Micha and I are as of answering this off to the Ny Art Expo with our originals.
2- We are then off to Chicago for our brand and some art to be seen at a really cool shopping show that takes place twice a year called ìOne of a Kindì.
3- Micha and I are collaborating with this amazing company in Johannesburg (and Germany ) to create our first of - we hope many -- limited edition Augmented Reality art pieces that will come to life at art shows!! The first one being Butterflies Fly and then hopefully a Yoda piece and then, well, then maybe a Mona Lisa piece called The Morning Lisa complete with a bloody mary in her hand the day of the portrait. Yes, that one after a binder. Classic. (we think she was in Vegas for the painting in our world), or what IF she was.
4- We are in the beginning stages of a collaboration with a gallery in Sedona that might be showing our artworks for a unique concept of ìArtists that paint celebrities and celebrities that paint artists!î This project has implications into the hotel world (think main lobby and curation) all over the U.S and internationally, so we are excited to see where this goes . There is a first showing in Sedona at the gallery slated for October 13 and 14th or 21 and 22nd [2023]. TBD.
5 - At some point by summer we will begin creating more art concepts for Barnes and Nobles in the U.S and Designer Greetings (which are our artworks [that are] already featured on with a line of products including journals and greeting cards) and attend the Santa Fe fine art show or formally ART SANTA FE.
6- We are going to try and fit into our schedule a few live shows in the summer in Chicago and San Fran and then we will attend ONE of our national trade shows in NYC for our brand of products here and in Japan.
7- then drink heavily...ok kidding, let's see, YOU asked, soooo. A two week art show set in Las Vegas for live shows in the public in October and then we prepare for Art Basel Week [in] December, first week at a show called RED DOT with the redwood art group. Awesome show, amazing crowds, and so so so fun to be at.
Howis that for a busy schedule and that does not include commission pieces (we HOPE ) and/or special other projects that come down the pipeline we never know about until we know.
Thanks for taking the time to get to know us a little bit and for the kind support and shout out. You guys rock.

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