by Shailaja TripathiDec 07, 2020
Inadvertently, in the times brimming with visuals across the social media platforms, the eyes have been trained to look at the overpopulated images that are crying for our attention in bright hues. Equally, it keeps the mind hustled, a tad less restful. In such times marked by an overflow of visuals, to come across the series of mixed-media works by New Mexico-based Katherine Hunt, that do not momentarily seek refuge in these deep colours is a pleasant surprise. The minimalist approach to the pattern of geometry created with textile in Hunt’s work attempts to evoke a calming effect. Hunt’s academic background in diverse disciplines - Indigenous American Studies, Women's Studies, Cultural Psychology and Experimental Film/Video - has informed her current art practice.
Hunt’s work straddles both two and three-dimensional spaces that oversee the fibres including string, twine and rope coated and embedded in adhesives of beeswax, resin, glue and acrylic. To work with such delicate works involves dextrous use of hands. In an interview with STIR, Hunt traces her proclivity towards co-dependency between body and senses to her work in the Art Department at Los Angeles where, “I worked in on multiple music videos, feature films and television shows so my practice has been a mixture of arts education and experience creating mixed media objects. My films were hand-dyed and processed and without the use of a film lab to develop once school finished, the transition to focusing on fibre and mixed media process art full time took hold. Having my hands in soil gardening and farming for over 15 years, feeling the texture, using my body and all my senses has greatly informed my practice.”
It was at the University of Minnesota that Hunt was introduced to the Ojibwe and Lakota textile arts. As the textile is still not a popular medium to play with for the number of artists, Hunt's initial stint was further buttressed when she moved to New Mexico where weaving is revered as a high art form. Furthermore, it was when Hunt started teaching at the Youth Fiber Arts through a non-profit organisation, she realised, “how much I enjoy working with fabrics, yarn, string, ropes, and creating mixed media fibre arts using non-traditional methods”.
Her works are indeed minimalistic that demand the viewers to take a closer look at the intricate patterns without letting them be caught in the noise of distractions. The sensorial experience that the abstract works offer is the result of concepts and ideas that define her work. However, she understands that “those ideas or concepts sometimes are equally if not more important than the finished work itself”. Calling her works as a “form of a process-oriented piece,” Hunt adds, “some kind of texture, image or shape will come to me and then I need to express. Trying to express that idea or concept into an abstract form can be challenging”.
The materials such as fibres and yarns are delicate enough to let the artist think twice about how to visually achieve what has been thought of at the first time. It poses, “both a challenge and an advantage in that I am forced to let go of an exact idea in my head and let the materials have their way, which definitely teaches me patience and the art of letting go of perfection!” The final works that are presented to the audience, unflinchingly, carry a precision of geometry, but Hunt affirms, “It allows me time to think abstractly and work through some emotional state I might be currently juggling in life. Or sometimes if I am reading about a theory in art, I want to try and implement that theory in my own way”. For Hunt, this is a meditative exercise that could take a variety of her time. “Depending on size, the latest one thread pieces adhered onto a canvas have taken me anywhere from six weeks to two months!”
The practice may appear methodological that could offer its own set of disadvantages to a few of the artists, yet for Hunt, it is a fitting moment to take a break from the busyness of the outside world.
A practitioner of Qi Gong, Hunt confesses, “It’s very calming to keep the palette I work with simplified. The desert landscapes’ muted colour palette (pinks, whites, browns, greys, blacks) surrounding me here in New Mexico has surely affected the look and feel of my works and offered me grounding and a calming quietness”. In a meaningful way, Hunt successfully achieves with her work what she hopes for viewers to feel “a little bit more at ease”.