Anatomy of an Artwork 101.3
Q @ A with Poet and Artist Kate Ingold
as she appears with her artwork "Dark Waters" @ISM Lockport on 3/11/14

We would like to introduce you to the images and text of Poet and Artist, Kate Ingold. Her work is currently on display in, Everything in Place, closing April 13th. She was kind enough to allow us insight into her creative process and was extraordinarily generous by giving a reading at our most recent members event.  Her work is a beautiful example of ethos and pathos working in harmony.

JL: (John Lustig)  At the core, photography is about manipulating light. Can you talk about your relationship with light as the artist?

KI: (Kate Ingold) Though I use photography in much of my work, I don't identify as a photographer, perhaps because I'm more interested in messing with the image than keeping it pristine. I can't say that I pay particular attention to light, though of course I do take it into consideration when I make images.

JL:  Atmosphere plays a role in the image. Do you see it as a "character" or more as "context" in your art making?

This is an interesting question, one that I'd not given any thought to previously. Thank you for that! I'm leaning toward context. I had a particular feeling/mood that I wanted viewers to leave with. In that way, the atmospheric feeling, perhaps the dream-like or "fuzzy memory" visuals of the images, is meant to mimic both my personal feelings after hearing of my friend's death and what I imagine his vision was like leading up to his suicide, one that was, perhaps, overwhelmingly out of focus and disorienting. The piece is a kind of love poem/letter of regret to him and also a message of healing, in a way, of finding beauty in the disappointment and despair that may have led to his death.

JL:  The narrative of the photographs read sequentially, your poetry in many ways, completes those visual thoughts. How as a poet do you see those elements complementing each other?

KI: This question addresses the core of my practice: how to create a third thing out of two disparate things. I'm not interested in illustrating my work with one or the other, either having the visual image illustrate the poem or vice versa, but rather I want to have the reading of the poem/reading of the visual work make a third thing that wouldn't be possible otherwise. I recently read a biography of John Cage that mentioned this idea. When he began working with Merce Cunningham, he developed a philosophy of dance and music that insisted one was not subordinate to the other, but that they would be equals. I see my image/text work the same way. I struggle to make both the poem and the visual work be strong on their own, of course, but always I want them to be stronger together.

JL:  Can you describe the act of writing versus the act of assembling the various components together to craft the artwork?

Sometimes I find the process to be similar. With both, I sit down and decide to work on something, and let mistakes and horribleness happen. I do revisions. In the visual work, sometimes those revisions are done in the camera itself. I take a series of pictures, for instance, trying to get to what I want to convey. Eventually I get what I want (most of the time, at least). I don't do any manipulation in the computer. I print directly from the digital file. Often I work on the visual pieces while I'm working on the poem, and sometimes that happens on the same table. With an earlier image/text series, 21st Century Retablo, I had my computer open while I was working on the visual pieces, scratching and "repairing" the images with metal tools and wire while simultaneously writing the poems. I found one fed into the other constantly. A phrase or idea for the poems would prompt a new way of working into the image, just as working into the images often gave me the language for the poems. For Dark Waters, the process was a bit different. I was taking pictures of dark, watery landscapes during the same time period I was working on the poem, but it wasn't until I printed the photographs out that I began to revise the poem into its current form, a series of 31-syllable tankas. I made an artist book (exhibited in this show) to see how the poems read next to the images, then manipulated the images in the book. From that exercise, I realized I wanted the words to drop down the image, so I printed the images out and scratched the poems into the surface of the photographs. Tankas are ordinarily written like haikus, with multiple words on each line. But since I wanted this dripping, falling quality, I decided to try writing the tankas as series of one-word lines, a process of revision that I did on my computer. I tore into the paper and sewed into it with metal wire after I'd scratched the words into the images.

JL:  In this exhibit, the Curator Jennifer Jaskowiak is seeking to demonstrate the amount of work that goes into preparing for the actual finished piece of art. You were kind enough to include first generation prints for the exhibit. Can you talk about how you stage or organize your process?

KI:  I usually work in series, driven by a conceptual or aesthetic idea that I want to explore. From that, I take images, develop ideas for installations or other work, and take a ton of notes for poems. Sometimes I make only visual work in a given series; sometimes it ends up only as poems. In the case of Dark Waters, the unadulterated images were printed outside of my studio while the images in the final piece I printed myself, which explains the color and paper differences. When I decided to add text to the images, I knew I needed to print them on my own. The prints in the final piece are closer to what the images looked like in my camera, so they are the most accurate. Ordinarily, I make monoprints, printing each photograph only once. I identify much more strongly on the painting/drawing side of artmaking rather than the photography side. I'm not interested in the multiples aspect of photography. Instead, I use the photograph as a substrate for the drawing. With Dark Waters, I went through a process of discovering how to best present the image and text together, and how I wanted to manipulate the images. First I made an artist book with the text on a separate page from the image. This helped me 1) see if the text and image were playing off of one another in the manner I intended; 2) develop ideas for how I wanted to manipulate the images; and 3) decide how I wanted to present the text with the images. I decided after finishing the book to have the words drip down the image, so I experimented at home with first scratching the words into the images, then with printing the words on the images first, then scratching into them. Unfortunately, I didn't save the first attempts at scratching the words into the images, or I'd have given them to Jennifer for the show.

JL:  The artwork needs to be physically altered by yother its you applying text or sewing into the image. These could have been done by technology. can you discuss that stage of the process?

KI: I actually used technology to put the words on the images. I added the text in a dark gray font to the images before printing them, then scratched out the words with a handmade metal tool. This came about from trial and error. I first took a few prints and tried to scratch the words directly into the image, and the results were pretty illegible. While I know that illegibility plays an important role in a lot of visual work that uses text, in this case I felt very strongly that viewers needed to be able to read the poems. When we first exhibited this piece at the Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery in 2009, we had the poems next to the images because even with that extra technological help, the words can still be difficult to make out. As for the manipulations on the surface of the photographs, I don't think technology could do any of it. It has to be done by hand. I sew the metal wire into the paper using a needle and I scratch into the paper with a tool I made from a large paperclip and a knob of rubber eraser, covered in felt. When I first started scratching and tearing images, I used just the paperclip, but it began to take a serious toll on my hand. It actually takes quite a bit of careful pressure to tear at the paper without tearing all the way through. I have to use a firm and strong scratching technique, but it can't be too aggressive or the paper will tear. I first used metal wire I bought at the hardware store, but later started buying copper and tinned wire from an online source that offers dozens and dozens of gauges. I know some artists use sewing machines to sew into paper, canvas, etc., but hand sewing is an important part of the process for me, both for the contradictory nature of having this traditional process over a digital print, and for the aesthetic quality of hand stitches.

JL:  Poetry relies on metaphor. Does the completed artwork "Dark Waters" serve as a metaphor outside of the narrative that you have portrayed?

I think there is some metaphor in the poetry, but I don't intend the work to be a metaphor for anything other than what it is, a lament/ eulogy/exploration of loss.

JL:  Your journals feel structured/organized, almost as if you were recording this information directly. Do these reflect accurately your process or have they been reorganized for the project?

The notebooks reflect exactly my process and weren't reorganized for the project. I think about a piece/idea/concept then write it down. I'm an organized person in all aspects of my life, which explains my rather clean and organized studio! My work involves a lot of thinking and conceptualizing before I make it and isn't generally driven by intuition or improvisation. That's not to say that I always throw away "mistakes" or anything -- I actually like restriction a lot and add parameters to my work on purpose -- but I usually have an idea of what I want to do before I start on the final work. To get to that point of certainty, I use prototypes and notebooks to work out ideas. For Thesaurus for Ceasing War, an image/text piece made of three large photograph-printed silk panels embroidered with silk embroidery thread with an accompanying poem that I exhibited at ISM in 2009, I printed the images first on silk at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (they have a printing service accessible to students, faculty and alums, which has been an invaluable resource to me over the years). The silk they use is not washable and is incredibly delicate. A drop of water would stain the image, which means you can't steam out the wrinkles or expose the silk to any abuse whatsoever. Embroidering is not an indelicate process, so I knew that these could not be the final images. Instead, I used these prints to experiment with how I wanted to embroider the panels. I first embroidered circles all over one of the panels. Then I tried patches of vertical embroidery, sort of like slashes of rain you might see on a window. But as I started working more on the poem, I decided to change direction and have the embroidery gradually go from black to white horizontally across the three panels, in varying vertical lines down the images, sort of like heavy rain streaming down a window. I found a printer in Florida that prints on silk that can be washed and will not be damaged by water (and can be ironed/steamed -- important for showing and storing the piece) and set to work embroidering the panels after receiving them. After a number of months of working out how I wanted the panels to look, both in the initial prototype and my notebooks, it became all about executing the idea. Embroidering the final panels took several months of just sewing, sewing, sewing.

JL: Can you discuss a typical art making day?

  KI: I'm usually working on more than one piece at a time and sometimes more than one 'series' at a time, so a typical day involves a number of actions and focuses. For instance, right now I've just finished two series of small pieces, one using remnant photographs from another series, 21st Century Retablo, that I've scratched and sewn into, and anther of sidewalk cracks that I've sewn up with metal wire. There are 60 or so total pieces and they're small -- the images are 3.5" x 5" and paper just 8.5" x 10.5". I'm still thinking about whether I want to pair these two series together and whether there should be text. The sidewalk crack photographs I took while writing two poems, "Far from Water Tight" and "Plate Tectonics". While I've been looking at and thinking about this work, I've also been working on large drawings from a recent series called "Drunken Forest," and a new series called "Damaged Goods/Small Repairs." Drunken Forest is a group of drawings on photographs that are 26.5" x 52" each of trash, garbage, and a metal recycling center. The piece I'm working on now is of the metal recycling center, a place just down the road from where I live that we call "Moloch" for its resemblance to the all-encompassing machine of Metropolis and the destructive god the film was referring to. I'm scratching the image with horizontal lines. This is not the most comfortable action, so when my arm and hand get tired from the scratching, I move over to stitching and taping in the Damaged Goods/Small Repairs project (which includes broken and repaired Lladros, ripped and torn and somewhat repaired quilts, photographs, and image/text collage, so far) or head over to my computer to work on poems. I'm also working on some image/text videos using original and found footage. I've made one so far with text extracted from Shadow Land, the memoir of a famous 19th century spiritualist named Elizabeth D'Esperance. I need to shoot more footage to begin the next video in that series.

JL:  Do you see "Dark Waters" as a complete thought?

 KI: I do. I hope that it leaves viewers thinking about it, of course, but I don't see it as unfinished. Some work I've completed in the past I've thought of revisiting, but not Dark Waters. I'm satisfied with it.
We were more than satisfied with her participation in the current exhibition.  My sincerest thanks to Kate Ingold. We are recommending the exhibition highly to see it here in Lockport before it travels to ISM-Springfield.
ISM Lockport Gallery curator Jennifer Jaskowiak has organized the current exhibition, Everything in Place.   Focusing on the preparatory materials kept “at hand” that both inspire and document the creative process.   Rarely seen outside of the studio or field, these preparations record all stages of the creative process, from the spark of an idea through the proposal of a final project.  Likewise, they offer a glimpse of what is happening in the personal life of the maker, their insights and responses to the world around them.  The exhibition includes the work of 29 artists.  Also included are archaeological sketch maps from the late 19th century and the mid-20th century, plus species identification drawings.
Learn more about Kate Ingold
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