March 2018 Artist Interview
Stephie Kate has worked as an apprentice goldsmith, a blacksmith/steel fabricator, an assistant glassblower, and an educator. After finishing her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Stephie moved into a residency program with STARworks Glass Lab in Star, North Carolina.
Stephie Kate draws from a range of sources for inspiration but most recently she has been re-engaging with a favorite material process, glassblowing, in order to evolve the body- centric work she developed in graduate school.
At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to become an artist? Did the realization emerge slowly?
I knew that I wanted to be an "artist" since the age of 3, but I don't think that I really understood what that meant until I was in college, where my work became more informed by current social and political events that surrounded me. The realization came over the course of two college years after learning what it took- how hard of an effort and commitment- to even start thinking about becoming an artist.
How did you evolve your style and favorite mediums?
I was initially drawn to painting, but eventually became more painting oriented not necessarily in terms of medium, but also how to build a composition in a significant, meaningful and symbolic manner. I think having been fascinated by some of the artists in history, such as Francisco Goya certainly helped with that influence.
I started with watercolor and oil as they were initially taught to me, but then shifted mainly to water based mediums such as acrylic and now gouache exclusively. The major shift occurred in graduate school at Syracuse, where I wanted to make more reference to my cultural heritage of being Chinese-Japanese-American, so I looked at the flat, printmaking aesthetics of Japanese woodblock prints and Chinese propaganda posters. It only made sense for me to try gouache for the first time, considering how matte the colors were, but the more I painted with them, the more I realized how incredibly rich, vibrant and flexible the medium really is, and how close I can come to the visual looks of printmaking itself. Every once in a while, I get confused as a printmaker, but I've always identified myself as a painter first.
What are your time management techniques? Do you have regular working hours...or favorite times to work?
At the moment I am fortunate enough to dedicate majority of my time to painting, as I am currently on a fellowship. It was a nice, much needed break for me, as my paintings take a tremendous amount of time to make, where I can complete one or two paintings in previous years working full time jobs, squeezing in painting time whenever I could. My wife and I used to live in a tiny studio apartment in West Seattle, where I literally painted next to my bed and kitchen on a fold-out table. Now I can create close to 5 or 6 a year without interruption, at least for another year before going back to a full time job as an educator.
Do you work on more than one piece at a time, or primarily just on one?
Because of how slow and intentional I work, it's very difficult for me to work more than one piece at a time. This is not to say I do not have other ideas. I certainly have some ah-ha moments where I get excited about a particular future project, but can only jot down a sketch for a short period. It's important for me to not get distracted with an on-going project until it is fully realized, partially because I think that if my mind trails off too much, the work would become abandoned and my initial intention of the work will be just discarded.
What would you say is your biggest influence -- that which keeps you working, regardless of all else, your most steadfast motivation?
The biggest steadfast influence... this is a tough question, but if I have to narrow it down to one thing, I think it comes down to pain. My current series of work focuses on the global humanitarian crisis, with the previous work focusing on natural disasters, so I believe it's the fact that I can relate to and empathize with other people's pains that keeps me going. If I have to be really honest with myself, I think that in a way, witnessing and hearing other people's trauma is also personally traumatic for me, so in a way, my work becomes more about catharsis and healing from the experience as well, while hopefully being honorable with my intentions of sharing other people's personal stories.
Does trying something new and not knowing the rules -- the boundary pushing -- create anxiety or excitement in you? (Or both?)
I think the answer is both. When I took on the refugee crisis series, I knew little to nothing about it, except what I've heard or read on the news. I felt that my work having solely relying on outside information and internet searches were a little too distant from the subject matter, and impersonal, so I decided to actually visit Greece and help with refugee crisis in person. I had no idea what I was doing, how to go about it, and to this day I'm not sure if I did everything I could. The fact that I was hands-on learning about the crisis and helping people were certainly anxiety inducing, but in reflection, it was a very exciting and life-changing moments that affected my personal artistic practice.
Do you enjoy having the "duality of both chaos and control" or are you happiest with a set plan?
I'm not sure if I view myself as having such. Sure, the way I lay out my composition can seem chaotic, but the world is completely chaotic anyway. I would even say that it's even more chaotic than the way I depict my works. So perhaps chaos is really in research and data gathering more than anything, and control is where I try to make sense of everything and compose the image like a puzzle that only I can solve.
Do you have any projects or events forthcoming?
For now, I'm going to continue my current, ongoing series with the refugee crisis. I started this project back in December of 2016, and I plan to keep going until January of 2019. I also have other research projects I wish to tackle, such as the earthquake recovery process from Nepal, and other current historical moments happening here in the U.S.
You can find more information about the artist at his website
Contact: Jave Yoshimoto (773)678-8445
4713 Davenport St. #9 Omaha, NE.68132 USA
Dew of Eos
recovered life jacket, gouache, mixed media on wood
gouache on paper
The Transference of Weight
gouache on paper