Briefly describe the work you do.
I transcribe the passage of light as it sifts through windows, curtains, found objects, architecture, and landscape. From the initial experience of viewing filtered light, I consider elements of the visual and sensorial experience such as ambient visual temperature, materials involved in the filtration system, and the geographical, contextual, and cultural aspects of place. These considerations inform the way in which I make each artwork. The methods of creation vary greatly between each piece; however, foundations of painting and analogue photography influence the way in which each filtered light situation is handled.
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 family that nurtures creativity. Both my grandmothers and my mother are talented quilters and seamstresses. A major component of my father’s profession is mapmaking. As a child, I was encouraged and free to make up “recipes” in the kitchen, spend endless hours sewing and crafting, and given every opportunity to explore and learn. I inherited a ridiculously strong will and independent streak that I credit for contributing to my interest in art-as-career.
The concept of the artist 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 have a few studio spaces. My primary studio space is in my home and occupies one third of my bedroom and a balcony and regularly expands into the kitchen, bathroom and living room. I consider this space to be my “think box” where I prepare natural dyes on the stove, wash out paintings in the shower, contemplate my work and build components on the balcony, contemplate “sketches” that exist for me in the form of photographs and lists of thoughts and dye samples, and study work in progress. My secondary studio space is on the streets of New York, wandering along the hiking trails in Cold Spring, on the mountain of Montserrat. It is comprised of the ever-evolving list places in which my inspiration, challenges, and questions are sourced and these locations in which my work is made. The final, and often most crucial, studio space is the intellectual and spiritual place I enter into when running. On long distance runs, I find a special and strange kind of enlivened calm in which I can ask new questions of my work and come to resolutions for issues within the work.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art.
An insatiable desire to do everything and know everything and constantly learn drew me to art. If I envisioned any role, it was a blurry amalgamation of all roles, or at least the freedom and compulsion to explore and know as many roles as possible.
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?
Each piece or project has situational light requirements that determine when I work. My daily habits, living patterns, and environment form the conditions in which I find the intriguing light situations for my work. The time that I have available and spend to make art is constantly changing and is often determined by a tricky dance between daily life and light requirements for the project. I find early mornings and late nights to be the most magical times, but sometimes nothing is more powerful than the sun at noon. Weather is a major factor in when I work and the nature of work made, as it immensely affects the light filtration patterns. When I work on a piece outside, I spend a great amount of time studying the clouds – the size and shape, pattern and density of distribution, as well as the speed and direction of movement.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Over the past five years, my work has evolved greatly. In 2010, I was in my second of three and a half years at The University of Texas, Austin. I have spent the past three years exploring life as an artist in New York City, and my work has struggled and grown through that exploration. When I moved to New York, I was making light-based work on semi-transparent, tinted, cotton/linen fabric stretched on wooden supports. While I continue to make somewhat traditionally structured paintings, I also make temporary, site specific pieces and collaborate with dancers to explore light filtration narratives through body and space.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I am thankful to be surrounded by wonderfully creative and intellectually challenging friends and artists. I derive a great amount of inspiration not only from fellow visual artists, but also from the chefs, mixologists, horticulturists and dancers who I’m honored to have as dear friends. Art takes many forms — I’m presented with guidance and new questions, sometimes from the least expected places and people. I glean structural and compositional influence from literature I read. I gravitate towards cerebral, experimental, poetic fiction, but my bookshelf is also filled with art theory writings as well as reference books about sewing, running, and plants.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Any tangential hobbies and professional interests have somehow always been or become integral components of my art making. My obsession with tea and my day job as the manager of a tea parlor in the West Village, when I first moved to New York, provided the material inspiration for the “City Lights” pieces and prompted an exploration of natural dyes. I frequently happen upon dynamic light circumstances when I am going on long runs through my neighborhood and hiking through the mountains. I have dreams of becoming a chemist, a meteorologist, and a cartographer, and I intend for all of those things to happen via my art practice.
Katie Westmoreland’s light-based work began in Austin, Texas, where the skies are expansive and the sun shines for long hours. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from The University of Texas, Austin and attended Columbia University’s Advance Summer Painting Intensive in 2012. When she moved to New York City in 2013, her studio practice evolved in response to a completely different quality of light. As she began to explore all the expansive hiking trails New York State offers, her paintings expanded from stretched cotton hung on walls to rock facades and boulders. An interest in temporality, a desire to integrate art works deeper into daily life, and a fascination with the interplay of and distinctions between beauty in nature and urban forms became primary concerns of her practice. Katie currently lives and works in Astoria, Queens and spent Spring 2015 studying the light and hiking in El Bruc, Catalunya, in Spain for a residency at Can Serrat.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.