Aktualisiert: 8. Mai 2020
Established, daring, and polyvalent are a few words to describe Katherine Knutsen,
an American, British and Native Alaskan artist and artist of the week. Based in the USA, Katherine has just around ten years in her artist career, and already at this point she has collaborated in an Oscar nominated film, became an established art professor, and master of many media’s from painting to fiber textures. Katherine is an innovative character that uses creativity to pursue her wide range of subjects and projects.
Since her nursing days, Kat has been teaching art for over five years. But deep down she is an innovator, constantly seeking opportunities for collaboration and growth, with people and her community. As an extrovert, she elaborates on how the participation of projects around different media fuels her creativity. She feels new concepts and approaches should be explored rather than feared, and proves this by establishing a career in multidisciplinary approach to her projects, including funding her own publications, creating podcasts, and reaching out to work in film with her art.
Last week Kat met with some members of the ECP-FG to discuss her journey, providing advice for younger artists, and sharing her secret to creativity and success in her projects.
To begin, first tell us a bit more about your education?
“I found art in my 20s, when I was at a junior community college studying to be a nurse. It was here that I learned that you can learn something you know nothing about, and later master that subject. This is when I made the decision to become an art professor. I realized that with curiosity and passion I could reach nearly any goal, and I wanted to help others reach their goals in the visual arts.”
“The Florence Academy has a location based in Jersey City, New Jersey. My studies at the academy focused on painting traditional lighting techniques typical of the later Northern European late Renaissance style. My studies at the academy consisted of color studies, drawings, under painting, and using the Zorn palette that includes cadmium red, black, yellow ochre, and white"
“Studying at the Florence Academy I wanted to learn painting techniques that were similar to Rubens, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. The academy helped to fill in where my university education lacked. As an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, I learned about interdisciplinary research, how to tackle a question or topic from multiple subject directions, and how to combine writing research papers with a body of artwork in a thesis package.”
You are extremely polyvalent in your art. Do you believe there is a common thread between your different realizations?
“I love the world polyvalent (laughs). I guess my work often responds to what is happening around me or around the world at the time. I am a very extroverted person when it comes to my work. Often I’ll be working in the studio while I am on the phone with friends, and respond creatively to the conversation. ‘The Hive’ painting series came as a result from a conversation about a local issue concerning the fire department, and grew from there to responding to the global Covid-19 pandemic. This intuitive approach of responding to social issues lead to me learning how to write articles, conduct research in different fields around my inquiries, and even publish my own magazine. But with the polyvalent thing I guess it depends on what the conversation is about, who is the audience, and what material would best articulate the concept I’m trying to explore.
There is also the amazing subject called ‘Gestalt’, tied to psychology and design. As far as polyvalent goes- one can observe the figure ground relationships, negative and positive shapes, or proximity vs similarity dynamics in different media approaches. Gestalt explains how we naturally interpret and synthesize content based on the context of how it's presented. So if you’re looking at a painting, you’d interpret it differently than you would seeing a person in a costume walking down the street, or a video of a person in costume looking at a painting on their phone as they’re walking down the street. Gestalt is great tool that’s helped me frame my ideas in a polyvalent way I guess.”
Above, Kat demonstrates her expertise in medias such as fiber art called "mental grenade" (far left), painting "Bubble brigade" (middle) and her first magazine "The Siren" (right) published in 2014.
What was that like (Publishing your own magazine)?
” In my adventure with publication design, I learned about layout design, - that was fun!- I learned how to write small grants, and how to start a non-profit... And I learned as I moved across the art scene with performers, visual artists, writers- that I was curious to see on a more individual level how each artist was a part of the community. I’d also conduct interviews on what was going on at larger institutions and universities to create a combined scope that compared the institutional to more grassroots activities”
“Running the publication taught me about how much variety was available when you combine traditional art forms with social media, online applications, social, and political art. It was neat to see the digital platforms mix with traditional aesthetics wrapped in a journalistic story-telling approach. I think that combining traditional media with digital applications and information visualization can aid in updating local and global communities on current events, as well as help to share visions. I learned how artists can use craft, design, social media, and publication approaches to more easily share their ideas that make the world a better place”.
“The different types of experiences and languages have brought me to embrace different forms of expression. A lot of times each project directly stems or bounces off the previous one, but with a different material approach. This allows me to switch from one set of techniques to another and helps me keep a constant flow in my process"
In the end, did you fund your publication?
“I funded my own publication using the leftover money of my student loan, ending up in the cultural council of my town. I also write a grant for it. It was kind of a response of what I received from my activity. At the time, I learned to follow my insatiable curiosity. That was keeping me doing research but just generally made used to always write down my thoughts and questions: these can be elaborated and answered, bringing to further research and reflections. I just write down on my notebooks my thoughts and questions which I try to answer with the flow of time. ”
You were one of 148 artists selected to work on the 2018 Oscar-Nominated film Loving Vincent. How did you get involved? Could you describe this experience a bit more?
“I actually reached out when the film was already about five years into production. I had just finished a body of work which was combining painting and animation, a technique that combines brush strokes with photography. A friend on Facebook sent me a message about the film. I was super impressed by the project, and instantly decided that I had to be part of this film. So I applied in 2016 to join their team while I was teaching my semester classes in the US. After about a month had passed the ‘Loving Vincent’ team emailed back and said that I needed to be in Gdansk, Poland, in a couple of weeks in order to work on the film! The timing was perfect, I had just finished teaching my classes, packed a few bags and flew to Europe. “
What was the selection process like?
The interview consisted in animating a small section in which blue and yellow were dominant. The trick was to avoid the 2 colors to mix and become green, putting the paint on the canvas, photographing it, scraping it down with the pallet knife and re-applying the paint.. It was pretty intense and stressful, and could have been the most expensive job interview of my life! But luckily I was successful and was taken into the team. I worked prevalently on one of the last scenes, with Doctor Gachet and Armand and the handling of the letter for Theo…”
That sounds pretty inspiring.. What did you enjoy most and what did you like less about being part of such a project, the people you met, how it influenced your career, etc?
“I experienced a bit of a cultural shock working in Poland, as my daily social interactions were different compared to back home… But my team was incredible, we were working from 12 to 16 hours a day and once you started working you didn't want to stop as you had your colors, brushes and materials going in a flow! I would work from the late morning until the late evening or the evening until next morning. I spent my summer 2016 at the animation studio, and then returned home to teach the following semester. It was an incredibly formative experience, and VERY stressful, but I am so proud of having been part of such a project. Working on this film led to me adding more digital media art courses to my teaching portfolio, and also expanded my studio practice to include more video art.”
As an American with both a Native American and British background, what drew you to apply to the European Cultural Parliaments Future generation network? What are your hopes with being affiliated with the ECP-FG?
“I am a big advocate for crossovers and finding common threads. Lately, I have been trying to zoom out to understand overlapping dynamics. I think it is dangerous for artists to just remain in a smaller limiting environment. It is important to have an understanding of your local scene, and see it is as a fractal of the bigger scenes... Fractals are patterns that you can see happening on both large and small scales. You can zoom out or move in closer and see a different view of the same fractal shape, your community. I want to zoom out and collaborate with artists in the European Cultural Parliament-Future Generation and have creative discussions about topics that are affecting us all. There’s variances but I think there’s also a similar heartbeat of concern and enthusiasm about what is happening in Europe. No matter where you come from, it is important to go beyond the scope of your local reality and see a wider perspective. I want to be a part of the team that helps in finding solutions for the European region and then see how those solutions can be also be applied in my local community.”
We have recruited many artists. We are trying to encourage and include more dialogue among our members.
“We are in a time where a lot of crossover conversations and compared analysis in artists studio processes can be exchanged. Maintaining a local identity as well as seeing it in a larger scope is really important to me. I’d love to collaborate with other artists in making video art that reflects both the decay and growth in the world. Send me an email or message me on IG @katknutsenart if you’d like to work together!”
What are you working on these days ? Is there something connected to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I am working on a series of painted portraits called ‘The Hive’. ‘The Hive’ uses the metaphor of beehives to portray power within teamwork. This series stemmed from a discussion with some of colleagues at a organization called the Co-creative Center in New Bedford, Massachusetts (a collective workspace which mixes different types of talents). ‘The Hive’ was initially a response to the miscommunication between the municipal and economic institutions with different priorities that led to one of the local fire stations being shut down, which provoked the anger of the public after someone died in a fire that was close the fire station that had just been shut down. ‘The Hive’ series initially aimed to show it how great it would be if the municipal entities work together better, at least in their communication. When Covid-19 became worse, ‘The Hive’ transformed into a series that began to include portraits of individuals who directly contribute to keeping the community running. It now also includes a physician, community leaders, and workers.”
Amidst all the chaos in COVID-19, has the pandemic affected your work and career? and if so, how has it affected your creative side? What advice and suggestions do you have to other artists affected by the pandemic?
“I had to switch from teaching in the classroom to teaching online, and it more heavily affected my students. Covid-19 made me go back to the drawing board and ask myself what can art do to help ease the tension? Lately, I’ve been focusing on making more video art, painting, and fiber art for guerrilla installations.
Every situation is unique, varying according to mental health, financial state, relationships with relatives and friends. It is a waiting period, a powerful time for artists to introspect and understand what really matters to them, and what they want to grow into as Covid-19 holds its grip on the world. In this time we should think about what we care about and use the resources available to make art that reflects that. We also have to check-in on one another in the art community. How are our peers coping? What are they working on, and maybe try to collaborate in areas where we’re overlapping one another. Artists are a very resilient body in the population. Covid-19 has hit us widely, but it’s not like we won’t be able to overcome it. I think artists should be on the media forefront reminding people how capable we are and that we’re not alone, and to be louder than the fear-mongering entities.”
Lastly, is there some last advice for younger and emergent artists?
“I would say to young artists, if you are curious about something look further into its details and analyze as many viewpoints of your inquiry as you can. Keep track of what you find and then intuitively respond. Have a lot of confidence and be curious. Your experiences are more than valid. If someone tries to exert authority on you, hold your ground, as you have perspective to give on the topic and may help contribute to a better outcome. You have a lot to offer to the world. The more variety of things you do and experience laterally, the more you will develop an understanding of how things are connected… Learn at a lot of different subjects around your interests. Take advantage of what you learn from school, but don’t focus only on getting a degree. Have fun and enjoy creating and maintaining relationships in your art community. Always question why things are presented the way they are, and try to reflect on who you are in your local and global community with kindness and compassion."
To see more of Kat Knutsen's work, art or other creations please visit her portfolio at https://katknutsen.com/home.html.