Albert Einstein tells us, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Echoing Einstein’s wisdom, internationally renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz observes “Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy—your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.”
Koral as artist, photographer and owner of KOKA, like Einstein and Liebovitz, has been dancing with nature and understanding many things since she was a small girl. Growing up in Kentucky she is introduced early to the varying elements of nature as she and her brother venture into the deep woods on camping adventures with their parents.
Carrying a boxy Brownie camera or an “upscale” Instamatic, Koral photographs whatever catches her eye. Back home, appropriating her mother’s utility room for a darkroom, she magically transforms her pictures into prints. Her tools today, including her infrared camera favored for black and white shots, are rather more sophisticated, but her out-in-nature and back-to-the-darkroom process are uncannily the same repeated season after season.
Koral’s art-oriented childhood home environment was a constant encouragement for her young artistic explorations. This legacy remains with her and inspires her still—holding places of pride in her gallery today. I’m impressed as she tells me of the skilled pen and ink drawings left to her by her grandfather and shows me the bold watercolors rendered by the brushes of her architect father. Ten years ago when she asked her creative father to help her name her gallery he coined KOKA by blending her two given names—KO for Koral and KA for Kathleen.
KOKA gallery is as unique as the name. Outside beneath the art-nouveau-influenced gallery sign designed by Koral, you’re welcomed by colorful renderings of paintings and photographs applied like building blocks to the exterior wall. They represent the works of the approximately twenty-five artists presently in Koral’s stable of art-makers. The interior is laid out like a labyrinth encouraging guests to wander through and focus on the work of one or two artists at a time.
During Carthage Friday night Art Walks on the downtown square, April-September, 5:30-9:00 pm, KOKA fills up fast with patrons enthusiastically turning out to see and purchase art while they visit with Koral and artists as well as with family and friends. During the evening you’re invited to sample libations and delectable hors d’oeuvres and to participate in hands-on art projects.
Participating in Art Walks is one of many ways Koral contributes to the artistic life of our community. She continues to serve on the Art Walk Committee as she completes her term on the advisory committee of the Carthage Visitors Bureau.
In addition to creating and marketing her photographic art, Koral provides fine art and digital services such as logo development, ads for businesses, signs and business cards and the reproduction of artists’ work. Two years ago when my graphics were selected as the official Maple Leaf art, Koral helped me with some details too complex for my digital skills. When I completed a recent portrait of my precious granddaughter, Sophie, I loved the painting so much I didn’t want to give the original to her parents. Seeking out Koral’s expertise I was able to have quality reproductions made for me and my best friend, Sophie’s surrogate grandmother.
Asked to name her own favorite photographic subjects, Koral places suspension bridges and waterfalls at the top of her list. She also enjoys photographing macro images of insects and flowers such as those that can be seen on the walls of Mercy hospital here in Carthage.
In spite of her full and fast-paced professional life, Koral and her husband, author Dan Martin, venture west on a camping and photographic excursion at least once a year, bringing home stunning photographic memories of their journey and the good times spent in Colorado with their two adult sons.
Back in Carthage, Koral’s favorite hangout for early morning socializing is Mother Road Coffee. If you miss her there, you can find her at KOKA. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9 am-5:30 pm, Saturday, 9 am-1 pm and other times by appointment.