Spotlight: Katy Collier
April 15th, 2015
Katy Collier works primarily in drawing, woodcut printmaking, and writing. As one of the co-op artists at Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Katy is showing new woodcut prints in Blankets & Vases from April 6th – June 29th. Read our exchange below and see more of her work here.
Can you talk briefly of your upbringing? Where did you grow up, go to school, and how did your drawing, printing and writing practice develop?
I spent most of my childhood in small town Oregon and I’ve lived all over the place since then (including my grandmother’s ranch in Eastern Wyoming and the densely populated Korea-town neighborhood of Los Angeles). I went to Whittier College, a small liberal arts school in California, for undergrad and that’s where I first got excited about printmaking. After that I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago–I recently found out that my great grandmother also attended the school for a little while in the 1920’s. I’ve always been into drawing and making art and I think having other artists and writers in my family paved the way for pursuing that a little.
Is it safe to assume that your immersed yourself in the natural world as a child, especially living in rural Oregon and Wyoming? In what ways does your youth play out in your current work which is so heavily rooted in natural themes?
First of all, yes. In terms of growing up outdoors and appreciating wild space I think I probably had a somewhat typical 90’s Oregonian childhood. Which meant, for me at least, that nearly all vacation and family time was spent outdoors: hiking, fishing, riding Grandma’s horses, etc. It also meant that my childhood friends and I often walked to school together through our neighbors’ yards and along deserted train tracks, or visited nearby creeks and ponds to collect flowers and herbs (i.e. dandelions and cottonwood seeds) for potions. I’m sure these experiences impacted my ideas a lot.
Secondly, even though I often use elements of the natural world in my imagery I don’t really think about that as being the most important idea behind my work. I’m really attracted to the countless ways that people use “nature” when making things: from medieval tapestries to Arts and Crafts wallpaper–or really in any art form imaginable someone is trying to re-envision parts of the outside into their interior lives. It’s like nostalgia for a pastoral world is constantly being reconciled by–or built into–making art, writing, cooking, or whatever. Also, both my parents grew up on ranches, and my dad spent a lot of his childhood in a small cabin with no running water, and only a wood-stove for heating/cooking. So early on I was exposed to an attitude of making things out of what is around you and working within a trade or craft, and I think my studio practice is probably more influenced by that. Woodcut printmaking can be kind of democratic in that way: it’s repeatable and the minimum required materials are not rare or precious.
Expanding on art’s position within a trade or craft, how important are the tactile rituals of your practice, both in collecting and drawing your subjects as well as the woodcut printmaking process? Do you think the current fixation on computer-driven design comes across as vapid insofar that it eliminates much of the artisan aspects of art-making?
Yeah, the materials and “craft” feel very important to me. Making woodcuts—from planning, to carving, to printing—can be a slow and physical process so there is a lot of time to enter into a sort of meditative workflow. It also connects me to the past, which I like. In the last couple years I’ve been very interested in art and modes of working that are traditional, process based, and slightly functional—quilting, appliqué, relief printing, etc. I think I’m really attracted to how idiosyncratic and varied art can be within a single trade. So I guess, I haven’t really taken new technology into consideration when I work lately. I can see that computer generated work might take the artisan’s hand out of the equation sometimes, but I don’t see myself as working in opposition to that medium. I want to choose a technology or craft that is closer to the subject matter I’m interested in—and right now that’s drawing, sewing, printing, writing.
I see elements of textile patterns, interior design motifs and even illustrations for children’s literature. How much do you consider the possible applications of your work? What are your aspirations for how it lives in the world?
That is a hard question in a way, because I think how my work is perceived and where it ends up is not something I can totally control yet, or maybe ever. I’m very obsessed with textile design, but I don’t know if it is something I want to end up doing exclusively—I’ve definitely thought about it, and I think maybe a collaboration with another artist or group would be an interesting way to pursue that. Right now, my work from the past year feels like a starting point for something new. I want to take some of my recent woodcuts and use them to make sculpture and installation. I really like the idea of these things—domestic design, textile design, sculpture, etc.—blending together through my future work.