Sounds like art: Athens artist to exhibit at unique OCAF show

Kristen Hyink finds solace in nature. She draws it. She sings it. She collects its sounds.


“I am inspired by nature. I love being outdoors, love hiking and camping,” she said.

Hyink, a 29-year-old Athens artist and musician originally from Texas, lets her talents respond to the spontaneity of her imagination.

“Whenever I make music, it’s like my art. It’s totally unplanned. I turn on a recorder and start playing something and singing. Sometimes I find these little tidbits of words that I really like and I incorporate those into drawings,” she said.

Hyink is one of 13 artists selected to show their work in the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation exhibit “Resonance, A Bi-Sensory Art Exhibit,” which opened with a reception for the artists Friday and runs through Feb. 16. In this unique exhibit, the artists pair their artwork with a soundtrack.

Hyink has selected her art from a planned collection of illustrations she eventually wants to assemble into a book. A young woman, who is the subject of the illustrations, evolves from someone uneasy and fearful in nature to becoming a self-reliant soul engaged with the beasts and flora.

“Each page, instead of having words, has a soundtrack,” she said. “I want them to be so detailed the audience can hear the environment.

“It follows a journey of growth and recovery from trauma and learning how to become self-reliant and finding your way as a sensitive person operating in a kind of incongruent modern world that we function in,” Hyink added.

“If we can go back to nature and find ourselves at peace in an environment where we are not controlled, it’s very healing,” she said. “The girl becomes part of nature instead of fighting with it.”

Hyink, who was born and raised in Austin, Texas, visited Athens for the first time in 2015 after hearing about the city’s music scene from her musician friends from Texas who had toured the Classic City.

“I came to visit and while I was visiting I got a text from my roommate saying they were raising our rent by like a thousand dollars. So I found a house (in Athens) on Craigslist and moved here on a whim,” she said. “I fell into the visual arts scene rather than the music scene and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Hyink never received formal training to hone her talents. Instead, she challenged herself.

In her drawings, she first sketches a scene with pencil.

“I never look at photographs. I try to create everything out of my mind and I never know what I’ll draw,” she said.

“Most of my work is actually stippling, which is basically tons and tons of little dots. I have pens in different thickness so I do these repetitive dots or small circles and squares and create value and textures and density. Some of my pieces can have like 30 layers of ink. It’s definitely a meditative and laborious process.”

Hyink’s free hand in drawing follows the path of her music. She plays the guitar, ukulele, dulcimer, synthesizer, flute, banjo and other instruments.

“None of my instruments are actually tuned to traditional tuning. I kind of play around with the tuning until I get a combination of sounds I like.

“I have three different guitars all tuned completely different, so I have to remember what finger position worked on that particular instrument,” she said.

Hyink also uses an audio recorder to gather sounds for her soundtracks.

“I collect sounds while out camping and hiking and even walking my dog,” she said.

A friend is teaching her the computer program Ableton, which enables users to apply a wide range of sounds almost like a collage, she said.

With this program, she can blend the sounds she collects.

Hyink’s first art exhibit took place in early 2017, when her art was selected for a juried exhibition at the Lyndon House Art Center in Athens.

In the OCAF exhibit, Hyink said local artists Melody Croft and Jackie Dorsey proposed this visual and audio exhibit to OCAF, then selected the artists to participate.

“They tipped the wheel and created this show. I’m very grateful for that,” she said.