R. J. Kern

"It's the People" banner featuring Minnesota Tamil Sangam. Portrait by R. J. Kern.

"It's the People" artist R. J. KernR. J. Kern is a Minneapolis-based artist whose work explores ideas of home, ancestry and the sense of place. Inspired by master painters of the 19th century, he embraces the heightened expressivity of natural and artificial lighting techniques paired with tableaux narration.

His awards and accolades include three Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board (2016, 2018, 2020). He was the Commemorative Artist for the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. His work has been presented in a number of publications, including a feature in National Geographic. Selected collections include: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Plains Art Museum, Minnesota Historical Society and Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.



About the Subjects: 

In this portrait, R. J. highlights the work of 14 performing artists from the Minnesota Tamil Sangam organization who keep Tamil arts, culture and heritage from Southern India and Sri Lanka alive in Minnesota. The artists celebrated in the portrait are Aditya Nandhiyar, Kamatchi Sureshkumar, Manigandan Jayaraman, Nirmal Sundhar, Prasanna Gajavarathan, Rohini Balamurugan, Sanjay Govindasamy, Saravanan Durairajan, Shanker Narayan, Tamil Kadir Rajavel, Trisha Sebastin, Velmurugan Marimuthu, Vijaya manikandan Mohana Vijayan and Vijayalakshmi Sridhar.

This photograph was inspired by “the inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” metaphor shared by Martin Luther King Jr. Blue fabric connects each artist, flowing like a river of color and honoring “wakpa,” the Dakota word for “river.” Traditional Tamil community performances occur by the river edge, and flowing blue fabric remains meaningful and symbolic.

Minnesota Tamil Sangram Instagram


Behind the scenes photos

A macbook pro and a camera lens sit on a table 14 performing artists from Minnesota's Tamil Sangam organization Artist, R. J. Kern, takes photos of his subjects - 14 performing artists from Minnesota's Tamil Sangam organization