Artist and gallerist Kathleen Vance joins GirlStories as a guest artist this week! One of CMA’s hallmark programs, GirlStories is a free after school program that empowers students to become makers and individuals, and encourages them to bring their unique perspectives into fields that are lacking a female voice. Get to know Kathleen below.
Can you tell us about your art practice and how working with children inspires you?
My environmental sculptural and installation works are inspired by my personal experiences in nature. I incorporate aspects of my travels into my artwork, whether it is from physical collections of materials from the forest to memories of places I have visited. I often incorporate water as an important element into my artwork, referencing specific courses of water, rivers and springs In these sculptural works and installations, I engineer them to have an active water flow which simulates the course of water and its sound.
I like to consider what it felt like to be deep in the forest, or a hillside next to a gurgling stream. It is really exciting to share those experiences with children, who maybe haven’t had many opportunities to take a walk in a woods or open field. Nature walks can lead to great points of discovery for myself and those I am with. Children have a great open perspective to new discoveries and can share an infectious sense of wonder. It is this amazement of aspects of the natural world that I hope to convey in my artworks.
How does your work as a gallerist with Front Room Gallery and as a contemporary artist influence and inform each other?
Art inspires and can build communities, which requires guidance and organizing. The Front Room Gallery has built a strong community of artists that interact, discuss, and develop together. We have created a strong support group in our twenty years of operation, working on individual artist’s development, projects, curations and events. As an independent artist, I understand the challenges artists face and this insight allows for creative strategic planning to give optimal visibility to a project or artwork series.
I work together with the Front Room Gallery artists with positive criticism to help give direction. These investigations can often lead to questions and considerations in my own artwork. Questions of how best to present an artwork, what would look best together, editing and building a strong concept all become important components of the gallery and my own artistic practice.
What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?
Take your time in investigating materials, their meaning, and application. The best artists are still finding new applications and methods of creating. This takes time to master. Consider what you are trying to say when creating an artwork and how you can find a new way to speak through art.
Simplicity of form and material can allow you to direct how people see and understand what you are doing. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Through success and failure you can find your own voice. I often look to the core of an idea and strip away to the basic forms and ideas before building back up upon them.
Don’t tell too much — the best artwork conveys a message that is discovered independently without too much prompting or explanation. Your artwork should speak for itself.
Why is it important to make art accessible to all children and families?
Art is a universal language, no matter what your background. This is a way you can speak to everyone about ideas that cross over boundaries of all sorts. It is the way that we can all connect together through a visual expression of a thought or idea. Art builds communities and opens discussions that may otherwise be difficult to explain or approach.
Art is an important educational tool. Visual art, tactile, or sound-based artworks can engage children and families to make it fun and get people excited about learning. Art is for people of all ages, and can be experienced by looking or creating yourself. It can be used as a way to connect family generations, sharing skills and ideas from grandparents, to parents, and finally to children. I believe that art and creativity is at the center of some of the boldest innovations in science, technology, creating a better and more enjoyable world.
Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?
My favorite memory of making art as a child comes from nature walks with my family. I would collect leaves, flowers, stones, sticks, seedpods, and really almost anything that caught my interest, and that I could carry myself home from hikes. Collections and keepsakes would be arranged, examined, and incorporated into nature collages. I can see this interest in my own daughter as we return from walks with her pockets full of stones, acorns and piles of “special” sticks accumulating and waiting to be transformed into new creations.
Can you share a work or artist that inspires you to make art?
Land artists from the 1960s and 1970s Earthworks movement have inspired me to think of scale and land interaction in a broader way. Agnes Denes’ living sculptures and other artists that incorporate live plants in their sculptures and installations are impressive examples of how monumental sculptures don’t need to be static works that are unchanging. We live in an organic world and living sculptures speak to the ever changing nature of our environment.
Working directly with the land to create immersive environments and incorporating living plants led me to consider artists that deal with collection and containment, such as Joseph Cornell’s box assemblages. My “Traveling Landscapes” developed from a desire to share an experience of place, environment and nature on a scale that was attainable and accessible without having to travel great distances to experience.