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Khailynn's Lens: An Interview with CHAW Resident Artist, Kate Fleming

April 3, 2018

Khailynn's Lens: Second Month at CHAW

You've read the title right, I have officially been at CHAW for 2 months now....and it's been AWESOME! I love coming in and seeing the quirky, fun crew behind the front desk that make CHAW a great place. Aside from my cool coworkers, another great thing I've come to enjoy from working here at CHAW are the different artists and organizations that host shows at the venue. I've done a lot of cool social media posts/graphics for Taffety Punk, Light Switch Dance Theater, CHAW's Summer Camp programs, and Resident Artist, Kate Fleming. 

What I love most about meeting an artist is the initial mystery of not knowing how they create what they do and why. The opportunity to learn from Kate, of having that mystery unfold by learning about how her thoughts, experiences, and processes relate to my own, is truly enlightening.  

When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?

Kate: As a kid, I always said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. As I got older I started to realize the "impracticality" of this goal -- particularly when I got into high school. As I started thinking about college and beyond, I felt a lot of social and cultural pressure to move toward a more conventional career path. I attended the College of William and Mary -- a school known for academics but not for art -- and after a couple years of looking for that more conventional path, ended up studying art anyway. After I graduated from school I once again felt a lot of pressure (self-imposed and otherwise) to 'get a real job,' which is how I ended up working in the museum field. After about 8 or 9 months of pretending like I never wanted to make art again, I came to the realization that I needed to develop a real work ethic and figure out how to pursue art seriously while also making a living, which is where I am today. In short: I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but only in the past few years have I felt confident enough to pursue it wholeheartedly.

How would you describe your art process?

Kate: My art process is about putting in the hours. Inspiration is wonderful, but unreliable and fleeting. I find that making work when you don't feel like it sometimes yields the most important breakthroughs. In a more concrete sense, my process always begins with drawing -- usually cheap ballpoint pen in cheap 6x8" sketchbooks.  I work in a number of different media these days -- painting, printmaking, collage, installation, murals -- but pretty much every piece I make starts with a ballpoint pen sketch.

Do you think you would experiment more with interactive art pieces like the one you are making at CHAW?

Kate: Yes. I hope to keep making works like the one I made for Artomatic 2017 and the one I'm currently making for CHAW. The problem with installation work is finding a venue. As long as I can continue to find venues to support my installation work the way CHAW has, I will continue to explore this process. I have so many ideas about how to expand upon this body of work and I really feel like I'm just getting started. 

Based on your flip book, do you ever think about creating animations of changing shadows?

Kate: The flip book was a project I had in the back of my mind for a number of years. It documents the view out the kitchen window in my parents' house during the height of summer (which is what produces such a beautiful range of shadows). It never even occurred to me that it was an animation until a friend mentioned it to me! The flip book was extremely labor intensive, and I swore I would never make one again once I finished it. But I seem to be drawn to that kind of really tedious project, and now that some time has passed I'm already thinking about making another one. I'm not really interested in pursuing digital animation, if that's what you mean. The hand-made nature of it, drawing each and every individual page, forces me to really deeply understand light on an almost scientific level. That's what is most important to me about that project.

What medium are you most comfortable with and why?

Kate: Ballpoint pen in a small sketchbook is my comfort zone. The great thing about cheap pens is that they can be really versatile -- you can get such a sketchy, dry mark out of them as well as a dark, solid line. I do all my compositional studies in ballpoint pen so it's probably the medium in which I've spent the most number of hours developing my muscle memory. I also adore oil paint. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I find oils really forgiving. I love that I can scrape back and start again. I generally don't do well with water media because there's no back and forth. In watercolor, for example, once the white of the page is gone, it's gone. There's no getting it back. With oils you can make all sorts of big bold marks and then just scrape it back or paint over it if it doesn't work out. There's also something so physical about oil paint; the color and texture of it is kind of delicious. Oil painting was also the primary focus of my art education.

What inspires you?

Kate: I'm not a big believer in inspiration. I find that as long as I keep working, I keep coming up with new questions and then I have to come up with new ways to answer them. I try my best to fill my brain with good things so that I can get good things out of it. I consume a lot of art both in museums and from my friends, and I try to read every night before bed. I often take different routes to get to the same places I go every day, so that I give myself the best chance of coming across different, interesting light situations out in the world. Although I'm not big on inspiration, I do get really excited and motivated when I'm surrounded by other people who are dedicated to their craft -- big shout out to Taffety Punk and the cast and crew of Don Juan, whose creative energy I feed off every day at CHAW.

- Kyailynn Baker is a senior at Marymount University and working as CHAW's social media intern for the Spring 2018 semester