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12 Questions: MOTHER + ARTIST: Kathryn E. Martin

1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What stage in your career were you when you had children?

I received my BFA in Sculpture and Art History from Milwaukee Institute of Design (MIAD) in 2001. Choosing to stay in Milwaukee, I received an MA and MFA in InterMedia Students at The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) in 2005 and 2007 respectively. I continue to teach at UWM in their First Year Program (3D Design) and Sculpture. In addition to all my “kids” at school, my children were born in 2011 and 2014.

2. What first inspired you to begin working with your chosen medium?

I work with all media – from charcoal to stainless steel, drawings to large scale, site-specific sculpture. What drives me is the problem at hand. What am I trying to address? What do I want the audience to walk away with? Where will my work be installed? And for how long? The environment and its place seem to dictate my materials just as much as my personal voice and for the most part my work is largely site specific sculptural installations in both interior and exterior locations.

3. Where is your studio space located and how do you make work balancing motherhood and art making.  Could you share an image? 

I work between two studios, one in my basement (at home) and the other on UWM’s campus; Kenilworth facility. At home is where I go at night; getting the house settled first, I am able to find my center again after a long and intense day by myself getting a to-do checklisted item accomplished. On campus, my studio is large, orderly and open with a full wall of windows. This is where I think, set timelines, research, put things and ideas out for display and conversation. I also have full access to UWM’s wood working, welding and casting facilities. My work and ideas can take up a lot of space and I’m constantly working/moving/pushing/pulling between and through them all.

4.What are some of your rituals in the studio to get the momentum going?

Simply beginning. As John Cage said, “Begin Anywhere” and as his teacher, Sister Corita Kent said, “The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who work all of the time who eventually catch onto things.”

5. How do you overcome ‘failure’?

I don’t think about it. I don’t give it any time. The only failure I could imagine is one where I am no longer working or worse yet, no longer trying. Again, to quote Cage and Kent, “There is no win and fail. There is only make.”

6. What is the most inspiring place you have been to?

I believe inspiration can be found anywhere. I spent a summer in Vietnam and am still in awe of how the light looked there, reflecting in its colors and natural landscape. Italy brought me to tears as I stood in front of Michaelangelo’s work. Climbing mountains in Arizona and standing under Mango trees in Tahiti affected me deeply. Swimming in the Atlantic and Pacific, big lakes and little rivers, each moment touched and left me with as much gratitude and meaning as recent laughter with new friends in Salt Lake City. I believe I, and my Art to some effect, am the result of everything put together, everything that has been given importance and everything that has been seen, acknowledged, felt and held onto.

7. Do you have any other interests or hobbies?

I love to read and I love to take care of plants.

8. Do you collect anything?

Ha ha. Everything.

9. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

Impossible! How do I narrow this down to only 3! How about authors? My favorite authors are Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut and Italo Calvino. And truth be told, that list could go on and on and on.

10. What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist/woman/mother? Have you experienced unfairness because of being a mother? Has your needs as a mother held you back from pursuing career goals?

No, I don’t think I’ve ever faced unfairness because of being a mother but because I am, and even if I weren’t so lucky, I still believe that the biggest challenge would be what it is now: there’s too much to do. There are too many things that I want to give my attention to, there’s too many things that I have to give my attention to and there are too many things always getting my attention. I would love to have focus on just one task at once. I would love to be uninundated for long stretches at a time. I would love to have a bonsai tree and time to work with it.

11. Who/What are influences for your work?

Ann Hamilton, Martin Puryear, Anthony McCollum, Ai Weiwei, Tom Friedman, my kids and my students.

12. What are you working on right now? Could you share an image?

I really busy right now, currently working on a piece for a group show at MIAD, a new work that will be going out to Baltimore in September for a dear friend’s solo show, and a collection of works for a group show highlighting Wisconsin women working in Sculpture at the Union Art Gallery on UWM’s campus. And its summer, so I’m doing everything and anything possible with my kids before the school year starts again.

Kathryn's work along with the other works from MOTHER + ARTIST can be found on ARTSY


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