Chains suspend a mattress from the ceiling. Paintings of pinks, purples and deep reds surround me. I am sitting in Kate’s studio. But don’t be fooled. They depict dystopian nightmares of sacrifice, torture and dark fairy kingdoms. Taxidermy, or ‘re-purposed dead matter’ as she calls it, is strewn amongst the chaos of paint and paint brushes. Kate’s atelier is an enclosed space of rampant creative exploration.
She begins to tell me about her interests in esotericism and occult mythologies. This often forms the basis of the subject matter of her work as well as influencing her methods of production. Kate tells me that her technique is indicative of automatism – a Surrealist term which denotes subconscious expression. Her paintings are often completed in a trans-like state in which she uncovers information from a more celestial source.
The South-Carolinian born artist spent most of her life back and forth from California, with the exception of completing her undergrad at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Describing her aesthetic as very ‘Californian Macabre’, she tells me how her work is influenced by her surroundings. She uses the term ‘Genuis Loci’- a shamanic term of Latin origins, literally translating to ‘the spirit of the land’.
Often undertaking research in the form of ‘field work’, so to speak, this then informs her practice, and at times, becomes part of the work itself. She tells me of some video work she created at the Isis Oasis Lodge in Northern California using an analogue camera. The old-cult is now a non-profit and an animal sanctuary which carries out Egyptian rituals and religious ceremonies devoted to the Egyptian goddess Isis.
She continues to tell me of another trip to the former home of Alistair Crowley at Abbey of Thelema, Cefalu, Italy. Crowley was a mystic and occultist, infamous for his school of ‘magick’ and semi-satanic rituals. The space was used as a commune by him and 5 other artists, who painted many disturbing images on the walls. In 1923 Mussolini expelled Crowley from Italy and the murals were to be painted over. But in the 1980’s an avant-garde occult filmmaker named Kenneth Anger stripped the walls to reveal the paintings once again. Kate painted her own work on the walls; describing the result as a kind of ‘astro- collaboration’ between Crowley, Mussolini, Anger and herself. ‘It was like a forgotten piece of art history which I asserted myself into’, she comments.
photos by PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Most recently, Kate visited the town of Quendlinburg, which resides about an hour away from Leipzig, on the foothills of the Harz Mountains. The festival of Walpurgisnacht takes place every year during Beltane, or the Spring equinox. Folk magic and early modern witchcraft remains prominent in the cultural landscape of the region. Although she describes the festival as a kind of elaborate Halloween carnival, her work is highly indicative of the iconography of witchcraft, and it place within post-modern society.
Witchcraft is historically conflated with social deviance, promiscuity and anti-establishment. Today the complexities of gender politics are rifer than ever. With constant battles against social and institutional inequality, the notion of the witch has struck a chord with the modern woman. Kate is interested in exploring ways in which the archetype of the witch can be used to empower notions of femininity.
As the first group exhibition at Kunskraftwerk is rapidly approaching, what can we expect from Kate? Her work continues to explore the numinous realms of ritual and occultism through both painting and video work. She’s also interested in exploring the ontological premise of her work. Stylistically, her painterly technique is quick, loose and expressive. She likens this with impermanence, forging a link between the temporal faculties of the art object with the decay of matter.
Now we know where the taxidermies come in.
Written by: Ellisha Walkden
You can see Kate’s work in the following Pilotenkueche International Art Program shows:
Vernissage: Sat 18 May 2019, 7PM
Open: Sun 19 – Sun 2 June 2019, 10AM – 6PM (closed Mondays)
Location: Kunstkraftwerk, Saalfelder Str. 8, 04179 Leipzig
Vernissage: Fri 21 June 2019, 7PM
Open: Sat 22 – Wed 26 June 2019 1PM-5PM
Location: PILOTENKUECHE, 2nd Floor, Franz-Flemming-Str. 9, 04179 Leipzig, Germany
Performance: To be announced