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Art Bound Podcast, Ep. 10: The Power of Personal Symbolism

Learn how two artists create meaningful personal iconography and tell intricate stories in narrative paintings.

In this episode of Artists Network’s Art Bound podcast, host and K Contemporary gallery owner Doug Kacena talks to painters Kevin Sloan and Teresa Oaxaca. The three talk about creating meaningful iconography, authentic personal narratives, and choosing imagery that is “readable” for audiences in the present and future. Doug talks with the artists about the seductive beauty in their work and the visual poetry they put on canvas. Don’t miss this fascinating discussion!

About the Artists

KEVIN SLOAN is a Denver-based painter working primarily with acrylic on canvas. Sloan received a BFA in Painting from Tyler School of Art in 1981, and an MFA in painting in 1984 from the University of Arizona, where he studied with James G. Davis. Sloan has lived and worked in cities across the United States, including San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans, that have had a lasting impact on his practice. He exhibits regularly and his work is found in private and public collections including the Israel Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, and more. Sloan works in a converted church in the historic Denver neighborhood of Globeville with his husband Mark and two Labradoodles. See more of his work at and @kevinpsloan.

TERESA OAXACA is an American-born artist based in Washington, D.C., with works in collections and galleries in the United States and internationally, including the former Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Museu Europeu D’Art Modern in Barcelona, and many more. Oaxaca received a four-year diploma from the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, as well as graduate studies at the Florence Academy. Oaxaca exhibits and teaches workshops around the United States and in Europe. In addition to her studio work she takes portrait commissions and recently founded House of Oaxaca, a fashion company. She is an ambassador for the Da Vinci Initiative, which designs skills-based learning for public school educators. See more of Teresa Oaxaca’s work at and @teresaoaxaca.

Episode Highlights

Creating a Collection of Symbols

Teresa Oaxaca: In my compositions, I have a pretty big collection of items that all have symbolic meaning. If I put the chicken in, and then I have some eggs, I’m referencing what came first, the chicken or the egg, I’m questioning the beginning of things. If I put in certain colors of drapery, I might be referencing Old Master compositions. I’ll have soldier puppets, instead of real soldiers. I’ll have things like a crown, to mean power or tyranny. One of my favorite things to put in is a turtle crawling away with a crown on its back, or I have a skull with a crown on it, symbols of past empires or past ways of governance or being that we don’t have anymore. I like to put hints of time in my work … I like to think of the way I come up with paintings as part Surrealism and a little bit of stream-of-consciousness writing.

Exploring with ‘Secret Paintings’

Kevin Sloan: I do this thing, I have for years created what I call “secret paintings.” This is work I don’t ever intend to show anybody. They’re often little watercolors, or ink drawings, it doesn’t matter. These are things where I think, I need to find out about that because I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s grabbed me, but I’m not sure I’m ready to incorporate it into the larger body of work. So I do these secret paintings, and it’s a way for me to find out about these passions, or lack of, or things that might be of interest to me, and to test things out. The studio has to always on some level remain a laboratory.

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