We had the good fortune of connecting with Katie Kirk and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk taking is an essential part of my artistic practice and personal growth. I always try to welcome it even though it can feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it takes the form of a small risk like exploring a new material, while other times it is something larger like leaving a steady job to go to graduate school. The freedom to experiment often results in a moment that creates a totally new direction in my work or life. This is often how I create new structures and new meaning in my paintings and ceramics. Likewise, risk taking has usually been a way for me to lean into my passions and take advantage of opportunities that bring me more happiness and satisfaction. I try my best to stay open, embrace flexibility, and shift my mindset away from any outcomes or set paths I may have previously envisioned.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My paintings and ceramics are a celebration of the body, difference, and materiality. I consider my work an extension of my body’s physical record. My paintings are made on the floor where I can use my whole body to squish and drag paint around on the canvas. I then adhere large dried acrylic paint skins to the surface, creating physical and visual joints. The surfaces are constantly reworked up until the moment a teetering form of balance is achieved between surface and object. These pieces become artifacts of my body’s movements and documentation of its limits. The layering, stacking, and conjoining found in the paintings is also present in my ceramic sculptures. Finger impressions, texture, and cracks emphasize the physicality and carnal presence of the work. In my work and life I posit ideas about pleasure and the role of pleasure in art and life. I view my art practice as a personal tool for understanding the body in space. Ultimately, I strive for the experience of my work to be gratifying. Like so many other creatives, my path to being an artist was not linear. While I’ve always made and prioritized art, I’ve had plenty of odd jobs along the way. I believe that even those experiences have helped shape my unique perspective and skillset as an artist. Right after college, I worked in human resources for a few years until heading to graduate school in Chicago for my masters in fine arts. The HR profession wasn’t what I ever imagined myself doing. It was very rule focused and structured–the opposite of how I approach art! However, it gave me an understanding of how to be professional and run a business, which has undoubtedly been useful in my art career. Going to graduate school for painting and drawing was a huge shift for me in my life as an artist. It gave me a community of friends to make art with and allowed me to start showing my work outside of my immediate network. The time with uninterrupted focus on my art helped me to explore new materials like ceramic and cement art-making as a daily habit in my life. Learning to follow my curiosities and interests has been an important lesson for me as well. After finishing grad school, I decided I didn’t want to do a job that didn’t have a creative element. I wasn’t quite sure where this might lead me, but I knew this was the only way I would find career satisfaction. I first worked as a visual arts editor at an online health and wellness magazine and then in content strategy. Soon I discovered an entirely new field of user experience design, something I hadn’t heard of before. It was a perfect fit for me and a field where I could channel my same artistic skillset I use as an artist in a valuable and purposeful way. I believe being an artist is a marathon and not a sprint. I hope to have a life long career. I am most excited to continue to uncover new opportunities that continue to develop my identity as an artist whether that be in painting, ceramics, product design or something I can’t even imagine yet! I’m also looking forward to having some work included in a show on abstraction in Los Angeles at the Brand Library in Glendale in the next few months.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love starting a day in studio out with a cup of coffee and Chit Chat Cafe on Sawtelle is definitely the best place to start any day! The Bendix building downtown is a great spot to visit because you can hit up individual artist studios and there are also several artist run exhibition spaces there as well. Monte Vista Projects is one of my favorites and AB Projects is one of the few places featuring ceramic focused programming. The pandemic has put a slight damper on getting to take advantage of all that LA has to offer. My husband and I have found it fun to pick a different neighborhood to walk in and explore every week. A great way to get to know LA and stay safe.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My group of art friends and my husband who have always encouraged my point of view and supported me. As an artist you face constant rejection and uncertainty and I truly appreciate not only their friendship, but also their continued feedback and unconditional help. It has been exciting to watch their own art and careers develop and I feel lucky that we have been able to continue to grow together.