Briefly describe the work you do.
For some time fairy tales and fantasy have inspired my imagination and curiosity about their effects on women’s roles and the construction of their identities. In my work, I fracture cultural constructs such as gender, beauty, and the body politic to expose, examine, and critique their social and historical assumptions. To do this I work in mediums, such as performance, sculpture, video, drawing, and installation.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and I went to private school for twelve years. During this time, I was expected to wear a uniform and we, the pupils were taught to be proper ladies and gentlemen. The idea of becoming a proper lady was instilled in me at a very early age, which meant being polished and very feminine. However, my parents didn’t subscribe to that mentality.. I grew up playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles alongside my dolls. The first Halloween costume I remember was an angel with an orange Michelangelo (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) mask. Looking back, moments like these taught me how to observe gender roles and what was associated with them. As I grew older I began to question the societal definitions of the female gender more. When I am in the studio I ask myself these questions. What makes a woman proper? How does this make them a better woman? How does one become a better woman? Is it by becoming more beautiful? What is beautiful?
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.”
My process of creating art emerges from complex and contradictory circumstances, materials, and objects, and their multiple encounters. My live performances and sculptural works often lead to the creation of supplementary drawings, installations, and videos, to constitute a complex body of work. This method of working is one that doesn’t necessarily keep me in a physical studio. Aspects such as location and process dictate the way I 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?
Many of the roles I play as an artist are ones that I didn’t expect to play. Initially, I was intrigued by process and the thrill of making drawings and objects. It wasn’t until I realized that my art could make a statement and promote change, I became open to accepting unacceptable roles of the past. This caused me to take on multiple roles in my work. The first is the role I play is an activist. I use my body to critique constructs of fantasy, beauty, body politics, and gender politics. Second, is the piece itself. A lot of my work involves performance and self portraiture which forces me to be removed from my own inhibitions and become a piece of living art.
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 feel more productive working in the morning and I will work through until the evening. I feel that when I start working earlier in the day I am able to think more clearly. Presently, I work in my studio on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and the weekend when I am not teaching.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Initially I was a 2D artist working in drawing and painting but when I found sculpture I became enamored with the idea of making tangible objects and creating experiential pieces. As the years progressed I began to introduce my body into my sculptural work until I eventually embraced performance as my primary way of working. Conceptually, I have always been interested in ideas of fantasy, gender, perceived beauty, and the body politic, but the method has definitely evolved.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Writers like Carl Jung and Bruno Bettelheim who write about psychoanalysis in fairy tales have been a very big influence. The writings of Judith Butler questioning the gender binary and Peggy Phelan’s writing on performance art inspired my work. The people who had the biggest impact on the way I make my work are Angela Ellsworth from Arizona State University and Charles Garoian from Pennsylvania State University. Both Angela and Charles are performance artists who have very interdisciplinary studio practices and work in non-traditional ways. Angela taught me how to use the body as a material through endurance and action. She was also an inspiration because she has an ability to work seamlessly through various mediums such as performance, drawing, sculpture and video. Charles also reinforced similar ideas, but would constantly ask me the question, “What is your work doing?” This question was always one that would make me stop and analyze what I was doing in the studio, and where I was going with the final piece. I would assess the process of making a piece and allow the action of making it influence the final outcome of my work. Charles’ question became one I constantly ask myself as I am producing my work and continues to influence the way I work today.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would be an anthropologist. I love to read about and research various cultures as well as their stories of folklore and fairy tales. I think having the ability to travel and study these things would be really fun to do, and it would add and enrich my life’s journey.
Katie Hovencamp is an artist who fractures cultural constructs such as gender, beauty, and the body politic to expose, examine, and critique their social and historical assumptions. For some time fairy tales and fantasy have inspired her imagination and curiosity about their effects on women’s roles and the construction of their identities.
Hovencamp began her professional studies at the Baum School of Art in Allentown, PA and received her BFA from Arizona State University in 2009 and her MFA form the Pennsylvania State University in 2014. Hovencamp has exhibited her work in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally. She was the recipient of Outstanding Student Achievement Award for Contemporary Sculpture for the International Sculpture Center in 2014 and the University Graduate Fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University in 2012. She has taught at various institutions such as the Edna Vihel Center for the Arts, Totts Gap Art Institute, Pennsylvania State University, and Harrisburg Area Community College.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.