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We are excited about our new partnership with Katherine! She is currently residing in Vancouver, BC and I was immediately drawn to her work. I hope you enjoy learning more about her through our blog and if you would like more information such as a more formal statement, bio, and cv, please see her profile on our Artsy page. Thank you Katherine!
1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life? What are you reading or watching right now?
I am currently reading a number of parenting books. But, when I have more leisure time I currently like to read science fiction and fantasy and am reading the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin. Other authors that have influenced me are George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, and T.S. Eliot.
I’m currently watching Better Call Saul and Killing Eve.
2. What are you currently working on? Are you able to create during the pandemic?
I’m currently working on a new body of work about breastfeeding and pumping milk that involves collecting the objects of feeding from other mothers-, expired frozen breastmilk, pumps, bottles, nipples, tubing, etc. I then use the collected materials to create paintings and sculptures and installations. My work schedule has shifted since the pandemic began as my 4-year-old no longer has preschool and my 1-year-old is dropping a nap. I have far less time but am somehow still finding small bits of time to make.
3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?
When I was getting my MFA at Pratt Institute, I had transferred from the Art Education masters program into the MFA department. The chair of the department did not want to accept me but said if a painting professor supported my application I could join the program, which I did. A year and half later I was preparing for my pre-thesis survey where professors would come to my studio, look at work and a 50 word statement and decide if I could begin my thesis work. The chair of the department did not like what she saw and I failed survey. I was devastated but instead of accepting it, I asked for a one-on-one studio visit with her to discuss her concerns and my work. After the visit she agreed to let me continue. What I learned from this experience is to never shy away from critics but instead to engage them and get better. I’ve had numerous rejections in my path to becoming an artist, but I have always kept in mind the advice of one of my professors, you can look for immediate flash in the pan success, or you can play the long game and slowly plug away and keep making. That is my model of success.
4. What is your most unusual habit?
I’m a lifelong nail biter. It’s compulsive and I don’t love it, but I think over my lifetime it’s helped my immune system a great deal.
5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?
I think if I could have my portrait done by a contemporary artist I’d choose Mickalene Thomas. I love her use of setting and objects and pattern. Her subjects appear unapologetic and fierce.
6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office?
I am a materials based artist so I respond to what I have. Finding and collecting and using scraps and what is on hand is a big part of my process. The most consistent material I have used is yupo paper. I began using yupo in grad school and it changed my work a great deal. It’s a very unique surface. I’ve started to move away from it a bit in my new body of work, but I think it’s been the through line for me as my style has changed over the years.
7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?
I’m a constant and consistent maker but if I do the same thing for too long I get bored and need to change it up. When that happens, I find a new material or medium and ask myself, “what can you do with this?”
8. What do you see as the artist’s role through this difficult time?
I think this pandemic is demonstrating how important artists are to our societal wellbeing. Artists have risen to the challenge and provided so much content for the masses to keep them entertained, to keep their isolated lives rich and full, providing new perspectives and scenes and inspiration. So much work has been made in response to this pandemic and the restrictions created. I think that work will be an important historical document, I think it will serve as a collective memory.
9. Do you collect anything?
I collect everything. I am a hoarder of objects and materials. My longest running collection are rocks, which I’ve been doing since childhood. I’m not as interested in gems and fancy rocks you buy at a store. I’m more interested in the pedestrian rocks, the every day finds on beaches and in forests. My rock collection has been the biggest inspiration for my work for a long time.
10. What words of advice would you give to artists during this time?
Make. Even when you only have a small window of time, make. I have found the need to shift how I make, from longer stretches of time, to short bursts where I say to myself, “ok, what can I do in 20 minutes?” In this way, my work has continued, slowly but surely.
11. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?
I think networking and making connections is far more important to me than it once was. Moving from New York to Vancouver in late 2017 changed my work a great deal. I needed to find where I fit here and to do that I needed community. I have realized the importance of creating in a wider context and not in a studio vacuum. I can be quite guarded but since moving here I have tried to be more open, more willing to show my own vulnerability, more outgoing as I seek other artists to work with.
12. Share an inspiring image.
One of my biggest inspirations right now are my kids. My son is now 4 and he is an amazing artist. He fills sketchbooks and the way he creates reminds me to get out of my own head. When he is drawing, he lets instinct guide him and he doesn’t second guess himself. His work moves seamlessly between abstract and figurative and his use of color and line are so free. I am often in awe of his creating. The below drawing was made just before he turned 4.
Katherine's work is available on ARTSY as a part of the ongoing online exclusive exhibition: Small Works. For more information about the work above visit ARTSY: https://www.artsy.net/show/james-may-gallery-small-works-show
James May Gallery
219 State Street Algoma, WI 54201
HOURS: CLOSED for the safety of all.
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