Combining a love of art and a love of skateboarding
Devon Kronenberg’s mixed media paintings walk an ocular tightrope, balancing between complexity and simplicity. “Rhythm is not only musical, it’s also a visual thing. Pattern is rhythm. The same way there’s swing in music, there’s swing in art. I want to be able to control the chaos, to be loose at the same time, and have improvisation with a structure behind it.”
Devon comes from a family of artists—his parents, Heidi Hefferlin and Craig Kronenberg, are the architects behind the Wheelhouse. Growing up in their studio, Devon was given art supplies, and has been making art ever since. His aunt and uncle, Melissa Hefferlin and Daud Akhriev, are well known fine artists, as is his cousin Timur Akhriev.
When Devon turned 15, Daud recognized that he was an artist and took him to Italy, where Daud was teaching painting courses in Anghiari and at the Florence Academy. “That’s when it really started. As soon as I got back to Chattanooga, I was in Daud’s studio every day after school; he taught me how to paint. Everything I do is influenced by my aunt, uncle, cousin, and my parents—my aesthetic vision is a culmination of my whole family.”
Painting with his uncle taught Devon how to see. “When Daud paints, he’s accurate without being meticulous. He absorbs the world, catching the feeling of where he is. He doesn’t project himself onto the world, he just knows what’s going on.”
In High School at CSAS, Devon won a silver medal at the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts competition in Miami—after that, he went to college in Baltimore for four years.
After college, he limited his palette to black & white to explore his ideas. After establishing that foundation, he began expanding his horizons visually. “In the past, I would observe color, and I would figure out how to recreate that color. The color of a shadow on a cloudy day, the color of a shadow on a sunny day, the sky could be a million different colors of blue on any given day. I was very objective about it, but now I’ve kind of picked up on color as emotion, color as a vibrant decorative element, color for color’s sake. Now I’m creating color.”
Devon’s philosophy of art reflects in his pursuit of skating. He sees skating as a vehicle for creativity—the challenge is to figure out what to do with the obstacles that are the city; how to figure out a way to do something that is awesome with what is there. “We’re not in Long Beach where the schools all have ledges to skate on—this is Chattanooga. Skating has style involved; it’s not what you do, but how you do it. It’s how fast you went when you were doing it. Doing a kick flip when you’re going fast is different than if you’re going slow. How graceful was it, and how unique? Everyone skates differently. Like art, skating is about creativity, style, and uniqueness.”
Devon is on a quest for originality. “I love art—but for the past four years, in order to develop my own voice as an artist, I have basically stopped looking at art. Whenever I go into the studio, it’s reacting to life. What I create is a combination of life and what I choose to do creatively, instead of being a comment on the art world. There was a period of time when I tried to paint like Cezanne. Now it seems silly, but I had to stop looking at his art. I’m a sponge, and I’m aiming it at life—so I’m absorbing life, and recreating it as art, instead of absorbing art and recreating it as art. I want my art to be influenced by life, not by other art. That way I can have something original to say.”
In addition to being a skilled visual artist and skater, Devon is also a composer, producer, and DJ (DJ Southtek). When he is playing music he sees himself as a scholar—presenting the creations of others. He throws in his original tracks too when playing house music. He produces his tracks using Ableton, a midi keyboard, sampler, and controller. He doesn’t give his original music to anyone, and doesn’t post it online, so the only way you can hear his creations is to see his DJ set.
“I’m excited about the future. I have a body of work that I’m working on in studio, but my main project right now is getting married. I’m really excited about it, because I feel like that will be the beginning of my adult life. My fiancé is the best person in the world.”