Briefly describe the work you do.
I create cultural tableaus out of various materials and processes, from embroideries to videos to larger scale installations that isolate and attempt to reveal some of the power structures that affect our daily lives and decisions.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in a lower middle class home in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago, putting me at the heart of the whirlwind of hyper-suburban life. My mother and I were experts at thrift shopping, coupon-cutting and impromptu Boston Market picnics in our living room. When I moved to my “hometown” at six years old, I soon found that my sect of consumerism was far from that of my peers. As I grew up, the cause and effects of this difference in lifestyle only became more and more apparent, as well as complicated.
Upon moving to Milwaukee, I have been granted a distance from the suburban environment that has provided me an intensive interest in the mix of the foreign and the familiar, the authentic and the simulated.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
If we define the artist’s studio as the place where work is conceived and created, my studio practice takes place in multiple spaces; on the bus, at work, while I’m cooking, while I’m on Facebook, while I’m out with friends. I don’t have a permanent studio, but I am always “in the studio”. I’m not saying that all I do is think about making art, but I treat every experience and every moment as though it could be a contribution to what I could create. My interest is in the underpinnings of these commonplace events; is there something we are overlooking? What causes us to act the way we do in situations, and where do these behaviors come from?
Actually creating the final product can often happen in public venues as well. I tend to work in mediums that can travel with me; writing, hand sewing, crocheting, video… With the amount of time I spend on the go, being portable is essential to my ability to make work.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Well, I first started making art as a way of coping with my alleged awkwardness, which originally made me want to be an art educator or art therapist. Today, I would call myself a fine artist, curator, and aspiring arts administrator. I wouldn’t say that my intentions as an artist have changed, but the hats that I wear as a person operating in the art world are slightly different than I had originally imagined.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I tend to spend a lot of time organizing thoughts and methods before actually executing the work. When it comes time to begin making, I’ll usually create a piece in one or very few, long sessions. This amount of time between “conception and creation” builds this excitement to actually get down to business and I end up just wanting to work until I absolutely have to sleep or be somewhere else. Even then, I will usually bring what I can with me so I can continue working.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
As I am still in the early stages of my career, my work has dramatically changed in the last 5 years. 5 years ago, I was primarily painting and doing a lot of etchings. 2 years ago, I was making installations and fiber-based sculpture. Most recently, writing, video and performance have been at the forefront of my practice. The mediums I work in are constantly changing and cycling based on interest in pursuing a material or process, as well as how the materials and processes I’m using are pertinent to the concept of what I’m making.
What I have found interesting about the evolution of my work is that regardless of medium, there is still a baseline idea that flows through everything I have ever made. I have yet to clearly articulate what exactly this is, but a power structure of sorts is inherent in my etchings of children being consumed by the natural world to the characters in my videos portraying an exaggerated stereotype.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
As far as family and friends, there are so many amazing women that have contributed in raising me and have ultimately motivated me to make the work I make today. My mother, all of my grandmothers, my aunt, my first boss at my first job ever, my artistic mentor, my close friends growing up… they are all probably some of the strongest women I’ve ever met and they inspire me to push myself further everyday.
As writing is also a part of my practice, there are many writers who have had a very clear impact on what I do and why I do it. To name a few, Ralph Waldo Emerson for his colorful and self-reliant (pun intended) words, George Orwell for his simple yet powerful language, Chuck Palahniuk for his complete bad-assery, and last but most certainly not least, Kurt Vonnegut for his sass and bittersweet honesty.
As I work in video, there is also a copious amount of television and film that has been a huge impact on my work; Twin Peaks by David Lynch (my film god), The X-Files, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001 A Space Odyssey, Melancholia, The Truman Show, and my most recent favorite, Upstream Color.
Science Fiction, in all of its forms, has been essential to what I make. It’s ability to teeter on the edge of reality, yet speak so clearly of current and future social issues in such a creative and abstract way is something I am always striving for in my work.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
It is hard to picture myself doing anything other than what I do, but I would like to see myself participating in more non-for-profit organizations. I think as a creator, critic and participant in culture, it is important to utilize the time I am not making work in a manner that is productive to my community.
Kayle Karbowski is an interdisciplinary artist working in video/performance, sculpture, fibers, and installation. She is currently pursuing her BFA (2015) and minor in Art History from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Karbowski is active in Milwaukee as both a practicing artist and a curator. She was recently invited to produce work for an exhibition by local curation group, Swim Team, and is currently co-curating and producing work for a collaborative photography show featuring young artists from Kansas City, Chicago, and Milwaukee. She has assisted with the NCECA conference in 2014 and fueled interest in the study of Fibers through her position as Sewing Room Technician and Teacher’s Assistant for fibers classes at MIAD.
Her work has been shown and awarded in multiple juried exhibitions in the area including MIAD’s It’s a Major Deal and the Chicago Area 4×5 Show.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.