In preparation for the blog posts about Katie’s art, I asked her to respond to a variety of questions. Below you will find the work she presented in the exhibit as well as her answers to those questions and a few additional pieces.
When asked to speak about art in a general sense, Katie responded, “The social role of art creates empathy and unique and interpretable perspectives in a time of uncertainty. Inchoate feelings can resonate through interpreted narratives, color, texture, and symbolism. I like to think of the artist as a “chien de garde” for humanity; peripheral, alert, and keen. One who crosses disciplines, growls and chews at ideas and presents work for others to do the same.”
And when asked about her work in particular, she provided these thoughts, “It is my contention that animals are now inadvertently, and to their peril, moralizing us as our lifestyles push them to the brink of extinction. An example is the bear. In the tales from 1600s it is a wild emblem of fear, in the 1800s it is a domesticated circus clown, in the 1900s it’s a teddy bear and a Coca Cola marketing gimmick, and now the bony polar bear is a symbol of climate change and extinction. The metaphor we so enjoy is being extinguished by the reality of genuine exigency. As much as I’d like to say that my works like “Bluff” or “Tickle and Lick” are fictive; they are drawn from my real and vivid fears. How can we be so tangled up and complicated as to not see both the beauty that is them and the brutal arrogance that is us? I also have included the sugary glass painting entitled “Selkirk”. In 2017, the featured woodland caribou lost its habitat in the lower 48; the last herd extinguished was so close to us in the Selkirk range. We push cultural needs on the natural and alternately want authentic and idyllic nature to be available for our pleasure. It’s an ecological, cultural, and personally, a spiritual crisis. Conserve them, then damn them. I am called to live respectfully and restoratively because I believe God creatively bodies forth in all living things. How do I fix this using my gifts and resources?”
“My work follows an illustrative tradition as I create tableaux using objects and characters out of glass. I work with glass not only because I enjoy the challenges of the material, but also because the material itself shifts from a liquid to a solid. This process seems to underscore the shapeshifting nature of storytelling and the glass color has candy-like qualities, bright and glossy or sugary reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel’s woodland discovery. I also have interest in textiles and patterning that brings the out of doors into domestic spaces, from the designs of William Morris to Marimekko. These play a secondary role in the image making process, providing texture and backdrop to the scenes.”
You can find the artworks mentioned above on Katie’s website: https://katiecreyts.com/home.html
Following is Katie’s Artist Statement for the exhibit: These three works are explorations of the domestication of nature. The domestication of sheep and goats is uniquely tied to Christianity, a rich metaphor for following the teachings of Jesus that piqued my curiosity, as domestication and wild sit in binary opposition. The idea of “nature” in visual representations being utopian and human impact being dystopian. At once decorative and domestic, the material and processes of glass enrich the narrative representations in this work with colors, textures, and patterns to draw the viewer in. Then, upon drawing the viewer in, it is my hope, to prick their intellect with the peculiar line between domestic and wild in which we exist.
And here is her response when I asked the following question, could you explain the use of pattern in “Habitat”? They all appear familiar. Why did you choose these particular patterns?: “They’re domestic patterns, like lace and delft – the outside brought inside, and fences. The wild sheep is facing imagery of domestication. Fences, roads, and rails present terrible obstacles for these animals.”
When asked how her working process begins, Katie had this to say, “Here’s a sample narrative – there’s usually a trigger, something I read or saw, or heard on the radio. Now, people who know my work, are passing articles and ideas on to me. Yesterday I received an image of a buck passing in front of my friend’s car with Christmas lights strewn in his antlers. I keep this idea in my archive.
Late on Saturday night I called my husky dog, Jezebel, inside. She came in blinded – foaming at the mouth and disoriented. Then the smell hit. The punch of skunk oil was everywhere. She had been sprayed at close range, in her face. Ungracefully, I wrestled her to the shower and tried to wash it away. She winced, slipped, and shook off until we were both stinky and soaked; her thick coat would need to shed this out. Despite my best efforts to clean and Febreze her and the house, it stank as I sat at my computer on Sunday prepping for Monday night’s class.
My house has become my refuge from the chaos of the COVID-19 virus, a place where I think I can control the narrative and keep myself safe and calm. However, Jezebel brought the wild inside our shelter. The threshold was brashly breeched, and the offender, though absent, was clear. The all-too-common “conversation” between skunk and the dog made its way into my living room. Though the skunk escapade was just an unwanted interruption, it triggered thoughts about the intersection of domestic and wild.
If one scans the news, one can find current articles on viruses and their relationship with wild creatures, domestic animals, and humans. Headlines include, “Pangolins Found to Carry Related Strain”, “Tiger at U.S. Zoo Tests Positive for Coronavirus”, “11 Deadly Diseases that Hopped Across Species”, and “COVID-19 Coronavirus Epidemic has Natural Origins.” These stories purport that conditions humans impose on creatures are creating variables that are leading to disease. Zoonotic diseases are not new; anthrax, salmonella, and giardia are more commonly known versions. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome nCoV-19 is novel and the pathogen may be linked to industrialized farming. In China, both wild and domesticated animals (civets, pigs, pangolins, cats, cows, buffalos, goats, sheep and pigeons) are farmed and then sold live, creating a vitriolic “conversation” between animals and their consumers. In the western United States, we have herds of wild bighorn sheep dying of pneumonia contracted from their domestic and vaccinated counterparts, as well as concerns about humans contracting Chronic Wasting Disease from deer and elk. Here in Spokane we have a newly opened restaurant called “Hunt” serving rabbit and elk that is farm raised. Do wild elk commingle with the farm raised herds? As we sequester, we enjoy hearing stories of wild animals coming into town, but is this good for them? Is it all a tale of consequence? Can less industrial human impact create a jubilee year for animals? I have a lot of questions to explore and expound upon.”
I asked Katie to provide a little more information about “Wilderment”, and she responded with this, “I wanted this piece to appear sweet and inviting to the viewer with some sort of strange plants and textures to land on. The ram is opaque, like the rest of the landscape – belonging to it, but implicated because of his size and power – which maybe makes him seem like a “bad guy”. The sheep are sort of sparkly and innocent wandering into the scene. What happens next? Probably the ram gets infected with a flu from the immunized lambs and the wild herd he came from needs to be culled. I don’t put this in the work – it’s too depressing, but I do like setting the stage for what could happen next.”
As a reminder, here is Katies Artist Statement for the exhibit: These three works are explorations of the domestication of nature. The domestication of sheep and goats is uniquely tied to Christianity, a rich metaphor for following the teachings of Jesus that piqued my curiosity, as domestication and wild sit in binary opposition. The idea of “nature” in visual representations being utopian and human impact being dystopian. At once decorative and domestic, the material and processes of glass enrich the narrative representations in this work with colors, textures, and patterns to draw the viewer in. Then, upon drawing the viewer in, it is my hope, to prick their intellect with the peculiar line between domestic and wild in which we exist.
When asked about her use of watercolors for preliminary work rather than other materials, as well as the translation between watercolor and glass Katie responded, “I use pencil and watercolors to draw and paint out ideas for some work, though it is important to note that I don’t use them exclusively.
First off, I like the touch of these two mediums and the way they look. They don’t assault the viewer with heavy greasiness and importance. They can be ethereal, here and gone. Watercolors have a variety of properties with each color – staining, opaque, transparent, granulating – I like what they do. They relate to glass easily because you can glaze them, meaning you can overlay colors to create new colors (like how fabric plaid mixes) or deepen colors. You also can use resists, like tape, frisket, or colored pencil which relate to the etching I do on glass. Also, I have really painful arthritis in my CMC joints (from years of being a glassblower) which is very sensitive to drag – watercolors don’t bother that at all. Glass is really expensive, and there’s a lot of risk. The watercolor helps me think about color reactions and issues of opacity and transparency.
I don’t feel like I have rules in studio practice, though. Last night I was working fast and big with India ink on paper packing material. It depends on what’s percolating in my brain.”
I also asked Katie about the process of making one of her final pieces and the use and importance of opaque glass in their creation, and she had this to say, “These pieces tend to make us of opaque glass pretty exclusively. This may be unexpected for those how associate glass work with windows in cathedrals.
When I create a narrative piece with specific imagery, I want the etching to show. Because these works are not windows or light boxes, transparent stained glass is too dark to show the imagery. A lot of the powder colors I use are transparent and they are sifted on to white opaque glass. I am not opposed to transparency, I think it makes a good metaphor for the “here, then gone” wild elements of my work – it just wasn’t right for these works. In the Forest Allegorypiece downstairs (and also on her website), there’s a doily and the Clark’s nuthatch in transparent glass.”
I asked Katie to explain what is going on in “Lead/Follow”, and this is what she shared, “The ram in front is called a bellwether. The bellwether is similar to a eunuch in that it does the bidding of the shepherd in a language the sheep can understand, like the eunuch has sway with the people but doesn’t threaten the emperor’s power. This is also weird to me because a bellwether is a metaphor for Christian pastoral care.
So, we have a bellwether (notice the gold lustered bell on his collar), who is a prized and trained castrated ram, jumping off the bridge – and causing all the sheep to do the same. There’s a metaphor in there.”
Thanks for joining us as in taking a closer look at the work of Katie Creyts. Before we go, I asked Katie what she has coming up next, and this is what she had to say, “I’m working on some more ideas surrounding animals and Covid. I am looking at Aesop’s fables with their moralizing nature, and tweaking them with contemporary themes. I am in a small group show at the Saranac Art Projects in April 21 and I hope to have a couple more works completed for that.”