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Khari Turner poses in front of his paintings

Khari Turner

“The education I'm receiving is important because my painting is informed only by the things I know. If I don't know anything, then I'm not painting.”
Major: Studio Art, Graduated May 2019
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Graduate school: Columbia University

Emerging artist Khari Turner – who graduated from Austin Peay State University last spring – is in his first year of graduate school at Columbia University.

Like Austin Peay’s students, Turner is adjusting to online learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

We checked in with Turner to ask him how he’s evolving and coping in New York City while pursuing a Master of Fine Art. We also asked him about his painting that graces the Zone 3 literary journal’s spring 2020 cover.

Khari Turner hangs up one of his paintings
After graduation, Khari has been preparing for graduate school at Columbia University.

What are you up to at Columbia?

I’m focused on learning as much as possible and meeting new and creative people. Being in New York, there are so many people and resources, that I’m actively trying to place myself in conversations with these people to make art my full-time job. I have come a long way to get there, and Columbia has helped me develop my visual language to prepare me for the opportunities it can bring me later.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your studies and work?

With the pandemic going on now, though, the biggest thing I am working on at Columbia is my teaching, I am a teaching assistant for a Painting I class now and being a teacher during times like this have come with its own problems, but we can overcome these problems for sure. I’m really just trying to work through all of this mess and continue creating as much as I can. I want people to hold their heads up and remember that though life is going to test you and are going to come and try to slow you down, that you can never give up.


What does the piece on the cover of Zone 3 mean to you?

The cover art is important to me. This image was from a series of paintings exploring a new way of communicating I have been working on. I started working a little on this theme at Austin Peay, but it didn’t quite work out. I feel like it is coming together now. It is all about past trauma being a part of a person, specifically black people, and the conquering of those traumas and tribulations and presenting this person to the world.

When you create art, what is the reaction you hope to get from viewers?

When I create work, I want people to get the reaction I get when I finish the piece. It’s funny, but often I never plan how or when a piece will be finished, but when it is done and I look at it, I want to feel inspired to make something else, but to feel the energy of the piece. The internal struggle in the image that I feel everyone has is conquered by the beauty of the image, and I want them to feel accepted of these flaws while acknowledging that beauty. These pieces are messy and raw, but they are trying to be beautiful even if there are pain undertones to the image, and that’s one of the biggest aspects I want people to initially feel when they see the work in person.

How has your time at Austin Peay helped you?

I learned when I came to Austin Peay that I have to continue to keep teaching myself to keep reinventing what I’m doing. I knew I had to keep going. Once I got here, I knew I wasn’t stopping.

Buy the journal

You can order the spring 2020 issue of the Zone 3 literary journal at Zone3Press.com. The featured selection from the issue is Jennifer Lothrigel’s poem “Honey Devotional.”

To see Turner’s work, visit www.kharirahim.com.

As a past University mascot and art student, Khari attributes a large portion of his success to his Austin Peay experience.