Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kate Joranson: Drawing with the Everyday

Above Images: Kate Joranson's Table Top and Column Drawing

Kate Joranson's work acknowledges the residual effects of everyday activities, such as running one's hand along a wall, or sweeping the floor, as a source for mark-making and a record of one's experience. Her work has been exhibited at the Drawing Center, the Mattress Factory, and galleries in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia. She works as a reference librarian and adjunct art faculty and lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband Steve Stelling.

Sketch Pages talks to Kate about the ideas behind her process.

Can you describe your drawing process.
For one kind of rubbing/drawing, I cover a table (or other object) with paper and then burnish it with a spoon or other burnishing tool, and then take a rubbing of it with graphite. Beginning with burnishing helps the paper form to the surface of the table and creates another layer to the rubbing. I’m transferring the table’s surface in all its irregularities and history to the paper.

Other drawings are made by using a power-sander. I use the sander to take a “rubbing” of the table, removing areas of the paper that are covering the lumps and bumps on the table. I go back and forth between sanding and adding graphite. I used this process to take a rubbing of a column as well.

I also work with various powders, such as powdered concrete or powdered graphite, to make temporary drawings on walls and floors.
Column Drawing

What is the relationship between your art and everyday life? How did you become interested in the intertwining of the two?
There are so many sensations we experience everyday that we might not think to acknowledge, or take time to describe. Many of these have a visual residue or leave a mark that I want to attend to. As mentioned earlier in my bio, examples are running your hand along a wall and sweeping the floor. I want to pause and extend these activities, and find their mark-making potential. I think that doing this will help me to imagine mark-making (and art in general) as something that happens as a result of how I take in the world around me.

I’ve also been thinking about how much I like doing everyday things! Gardening has become really important to me, as well as cooking, walking/hiking, and learning about ecosystems. I’ve been finding that the further I get from the insular MFA-world, the more I’m compelled to enjoy activities like these, without the feeling that I’m neglecting my studio practice. These kinds of things don’t need to be in competition with studio practice, but can function alongside it, or even replace it for periods of time. I’m remembering that there are a lot of ways to be engaged with the world.

I would like the objects I make and the things I do to be companions with:

- well-used tables, especially work-tables
- sloppily-repaired (or sometimes precisely-repaired) cracked sidewalks
- salt stains on the roads
- intricate winter tree shadows interlaced with tar-filled cracks on the road
- snowdrifts
- leaf-dust on a dry fall day
- seeds and dirt and moisture
- sanding wood
- pouring concrete
- sweeping and vacuuming the floor

What do marks signify in your work?
I’ve been trying to find ways to make marks that are as unself-conscious as those that might result from rearranging furniture in a carpeted room. I look to marks that happen when we’re not paying attention, or might result from work or other activities that occupy our attention. I also look to images and objects that occur, or even grow, in response to their surroundings. I document the salt stains that emerge from heavily salted streets after much freezing and melting and re-freezing.

Snowdrifts are a sculptural example. I have been documenting snowdrifts. I love how a delicate, geometric form, such as a snowflake, becomes heavy and laborious, shoveled and plowed in a huge mass into a purely functional form as a snowdrift. It then melts and re-freezes, becomes discolored and gray, gets coated again with layers of snow, suspends gravel and trash, and develops grotesque appendages as it responds to the late winter weather. The forms are joined to the forces that made them, and to their environment.

Related to this is what I’ve been learning about
Convergent Evolution. This is when two species (independently of one another, often in different areas of the world) end up with similar traits because they have been evolving in response to similar environmental challenges.

Can you talk about the role that non-permanence and temporality have in your work?
It’s great for solving storage problems! It’s helped me keep my process flexible and transportable. And since most of what anyone makes is temporary anyway, it’s just a matter of degree.

It’s helped me to stay focused on the making part, and staying responsive to my surroundings.

Observation and improvisation (seem to) play significant roles in your process. Can you talk about what you are looking to happen for a piece to evolve?

Improvisation seems to be a really practical way of taking my surroundings into account as I’m working. It’s also a way of cultivating an attitude towards the materials. I want to find ways of using materials and tools that are related more to turning the dirt in my garden, tending to a houseplant, and shoveling snow. I want the marks that emerge to be joined to their surroundings, and to their tool. I look for a certain kind of independence as a piece is evolving, hoping to see it take on the qualities of the room or object to which it is related, yet be able to stand firmly on its own.
Cinder Block Drag Drawing

How far will you allow yourself to intervene when carrying out a piece?
This is a great question I am always working on. It varies. When I am beginning a piece, I make a set of initial decisions, which often come directly from the room or site. I want to have the piece operate in a universe, or ecosystem, that is governed/guided by its immediate surroundings. My response to the particularities of the room or object is what initiates the drawing. Sometimes these are air vents, wall or floor measurements, paint texture on the wall, or architectural elements, such as a column (see column-drawing image). I also decide on a material and set of tools, and once the process is in motion, I allow myself to become absorbed in the actions and make changes as I go. Those initial decisions provide a constant tug, and give me something to push against as I work. Sometimes crossing the initial boundaries is just what I need to finish a piece.

Can you talk to a greater extent about how you work with diverse materials and on different surfaces.
Tabletops are a surface I return to often, as are walls, floors, and architectural elements such as columns. Materials I use include paper, graphite, and various dusts and powders. My tools are pencils, spoons, bone folders, power sanders, and other pressure-providing devices as I come across them. I’m working on a piece now, where my hands and a pair of gloves are the tools and materials. I am touching everything in the piece, Garden (ongoing), by Winifred Lutz which is part of the permanent collection at the Mattress Factory. I’ve spent a lot of time in her piece over the past several years, and I’ve always wanted to find a way to respond to it.

How do you decide to document your works? Are the photos more as documentary or do you see them as works of art, too?
I ask myself this all the time. I take photos to document installations, such as cinder-block-drag. I also take a lot of photos as a part of my process. This is in part to document marks that happen around me, but also to just become aware of how the things I notice is always changing. The photos are a physical reminder of (and even a way to measure) that. I have not exhibited my photos at this point. I tend to see them as an ongoing project, documenting marks that I would like to emulate. But my thoughts on this are changing these days and I’m reconsidering this.

What have you been noticing these days?
- torn scraps of shingles in grass
- how much one of my ferns sheds onto the floor
- long elaborate robin songs
- what a cactus looks like when it turns white and dies
- repairs made to retaining walls (Pittsburgh is full of retaining walls)
- how different humidity levels in the air feel in different light
- how woodpeckers twist their heads to dig into/behind tree bark
- crumbling mortar worn away by rainwater
- how I hold water glasses
- the pads of my feet


savas ozdemir said...

hi kate you are wonderfull I am very happy because we still making art my friend wow fantastic....sawash

eric said...

good work, sis. EPKJ