Artist Spotlight Series
October 19, 2016
By Katherine Wildman
I remember one summer I agreed to help paint her bathroom on the condition she would let me pick the color, I chose Brick Red. My mother taped countless paint chips on our dining room wall and left them up for months. She strained, paralyzed between Night Blooming Jasmine, Spun Cotton, and Swiss Cream. She hated the shade of blue it was then, the room felt too small, she said. She nearly had a heart attack when I finished her bathroom. The permanence much more overwhelming than her indecision.
Paint chips are symbolic of the innate desire to claim ownership of place. An entire market exists, inventing and naming colors to cash in our unwavering hunger for home. Their continual success stands testament to our desire to exert control over our environment, and our stubborn idea that one coat of Blue Hydrangea will change everything.
These works appropriately became my own search for “home”. A longing for home in my body, the objects that embody a sense of home for others, the space we mentally occupy and the fleetingness of it all.
My work on paint chips began, as most of my work does, intuitively.
I was taken by the saturated color, the matte surface, and especially the kitschy titles. The other appeal, I might add, is that they are infinitely available and free in cost.
These paint chips exist as isolated moments, created to form a window to the otherwise “unseen”. These are moments that I want to be felt, the vulnerability of my naked body in its imperfections, my partner drifting to sleep, a palm cupping air, a cigarette ashing. The permanence of all that is impermanent.
There is a sense of urgency I feel when I’m making. This is not to say that I don’t spend several hours on one chip, I do, but it comes from this desire to expand upon what’s started and to build something bigger with several pieces. I often have several chips started at once, when I have trouble with one, I shift my focus to another. I haven’t determined how these chips will exist in their final state, but the process has instigated a good amount of experimentation.
In these works I value intensity but intimacy too. The small is powerful and so is the personal. There is power when a viewer huddles their body around a tiny paint chip, it becomes personal. It becomes a private engagement between them and the work, and that isolated experience is a major part of what drives my work.
Through making, I discovered the paint chips received graphite well but resisted ink. Ink pooled on top of the chip and dried as a separate layer. Graphite lines spread smoothly and easily onto the chips.
Duality intrigues me, and I found myself mirrored in my materials. The countless places I’ve inserted myself into and resisted merging with, behaving as a foreign layer rejecting absolute absorption with my surface. But also the people and places I’ve dissolved into, the walls and relationships I’ve been swallowed by, and the places that retain pieces of me.
Sumi ink, is a beautiful material, it has an uncanny way of mimicking memory. Some details are lost, where others remain bold and obvious. My work touches on memory, but it becomes less about the record of events and increasingly about feeling.
The titles of the chips became ambiguously named emotions. There is a drawing of my grandfather gazing out a window on Almond Sugar, my body passing through a doorway on Battleship Gray, my partner sinking into a hotel bed on Great Falls, and a strange self portrait on Fresh Peonies. I desire them to be read, and seen but most deeply I want them to be felt.
Like my mother, I flirt with the idea of permanence but ultimately fear it. The permanence of a job, city, or settling with a shade that doesn’t compliment me feels unbearable. I find myself so immersed in this project as the search for home and belonging becomes more and more relevant.
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Note: Artist Spotlight Series will return next month!
All above content: Katherine Wildman