Each painting in my recent THROUGH THE VEIL series begins with a rendering from a closely observed fabric with wrinkles and folds. They recapitulate the compositional structure of a painting/drawing by artists from the past and present. The fabric in these paintings acts as a limen or threshold that places the viewer into multiple, often conflicting, layers of space and meaning. In the series the Rabbit or environment may be stretched or manipulated through Photoshop to create a sense of instability, heightened emotion, or a digital sifting. The paintings good-humoredly deconstruct imagery from pop, outsider, and high culture to create new “spaces” of meaning. The shape-shifting Rabbit is positioned in front of or behind; it looks into, out, around or between images and spaces. The paintings use dark humor, visual puns, symbols and metaphors, moments of silence, art historical allusions, cultural collisions, and spiritual conundrums to play with style and pictorial/formal construction.
EARTH TEXTS comprises a series of thirty-five wooden relief sculptures (carved, burned and painted with encaustic) that create visual metaphors of the book form as well as autobiographical explorations. Playing off concepts like frame narratives, in medias res, and earth digest, these pieces operate in one sense as visual puns and connect ideas of language to both earth and body. Through interplay of forms each piece seeks to explore what we know or how we behave. Books embody text, and the “text” connects internal and external landscapes in a search for answers to human dilemmas. The plywood represents nature destroyed; construction of the art piece from the recycled plywood represents nature re-empowered or its pattern newly disclosed. The tactile paint surface, created through layers of encaustic (wax and pigment), serves as “skin,” unveiling greater complexity beneath.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in a large family in the Midwest. We often spent time on family farms and hiking in the woods. The feeling of being connected to nature and examining it closely was an extremely pleasurable activity that encouraged me to find interconnecting patterns that echo through nature and our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual lives. My parents also encouraged all kinds of creative activities. We got music lessons and studied or took classes in whatever art form or athletic activity interested us. One holiday I received an acrylic paint set in my Easter basket. My parent instilled in us a love of learning. My mother is particularly creative, curious about all kinds of things, and interested in the arts. My father is interested in how things work, engaging the world with preparation and logic, and he values tenacity. Both my parents have an incredible work ethic.
The concept of the artist’s studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I continually think about the current painting/artwork that I am working on and what I will do next. I value long stretches of uninterrupted time in the studio. I also value long stretches of uninterrupted time to read and learn about art history, art criticism and theory, philosophy, religion, literature, poetry, and science. Studio time requires focus and intense preparation time.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Curating and promoting traveling art shows, traveling as a visiting artist and giving workshops to other artists, giving conference papers and serving on art panels, writing about art and art ideas, developing a detailed and evolving philosophy for making and teaching art: all those roles come from the experiences of being a professional artist and teacher for many years.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I generally work best in afternoons and evenings, after I get home from the university, often until 11:00 pm or later.
Over the part thirty years of being an artist and teacher, I have deliberately made huge leaps in my work by investigating very different ideas, styles, media, and subject matter. I still like to keep more than one body of work going at a time. Aside from recent explorations of things digital, I continue adding to a series of wooden relief sculptures, Earth Texts and Liminal Trilogies, and work that includes illusionistically painted elements and textural surfaces that incorporate fabric and drapery as image and concept. The manifestation of these ideas continues to evolve—the recent evolution is the series Through the Veil, which mixes elements from many past series and introduces new ones.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I have been influenced by the writings of Derrida, Deleuze, Dante, the Victorian and Romantic poets, Buddhism, Theology, Geology, Biology, many different painters (Goya, Celaya, Tuymans, Piero della Francesca, Magritte to name a few), but most of all my conversations with my husband, Edward Risden, who is a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature and language. He is incredibly well read, accomplished, and has a variety of interests and pursuits—a true Renaissance Man. He is a skilled, insightful, and productive scholar and has the heart and soul of an artist. His input and support on my creative endeavors is unwavering, inspirational, deeply thought, and well informed. He is an intellectual, scholar, and artist with words. We have just begun giving InterArts workshops together and are finding the preparation rewarding because we move immediately and naturally to interdisciplinary conversations.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I am happy being an artist and university art teacher, though through undergraduate school I also pursued interests in music. In another life I was a French Pastry Chef, harpsichordist, starving philosopher, or sailor.
Kristy Deetz, professor in the Art Discipline at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay, received her MFA in painting and drawing from The Ohio State University. Kristy has taught painting and drawing at a number of universities and art schools over the past twenty-five years and frequently gives encaustic painting workshops at art centers such as Anderson Ranch, OxBow, Haystack, and Penland. Her extensive exhibition record includes competitive, invitational, and solo exhibitions throughout the United States. Her recent Veil paintings revise traditional images of drapery and reweave Deleuze’s ideas of internal versus external and virtual verses actual–playing with ideas of “the fold” in painting. Carved wooden reliefs painted with encaustic, her “book” series are visual metaphors of the book form and autobiographical explorations. Playing off of concepts such as palimpsest, aporia, and table of contents—these pieces operate as visual puns and connect ideas of language to body and earth.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.