Resilient. Hopeful. Poignant. And deep. Above all, deep. Kathryn Hart creates three-dimensional works that are as dimensional physically as they are emotionally – a look into the heart, soul, and spirit. The sculptural dimension to her paintings is an adjunct to her art, not a gimmick, but rather a way in which to delve even deeper into the essence of her work.
Both the canyons and fissures of her art and the physical depth of her pigment create a sense of mystery, magic, and the poetic. Viewers searching for meaning, rummaging for spiritual sustenance, will find much to devour in Hart’s paintings.
The internationally award winning artist says “All of my works spawn from personal experience and express a multiplicity of emotions. My prior series, Unapologetic Presence, dealt with the complexity of identity and explored its lasting components once the pressures from society, family, and personal experience are removed. The series began after my mom died. I felt unstable. My role in the family morphed and my concept of my identity felt in flux,” she relates.
That series, Hart notes, had a “rawness” born from her willingness to expose what she calls “the deep places about myself that I’d never had the courage or inclination to let others see. The series is about looking into the past, discarding the flotsam and coming out on the other side with a stronger and ‘unapologetic’ sense of identity. The emotional base of the work makes it accessible to everyone,” she attests, adding that the work also has a strong feminist basis. Using materials that are intentionally rough, unrefined, and unsophisticated, Hart created works in which the materials themselves were “honest and a metaphor for examining identity with an attitude of self-acceptance.”
Hart’s current series is, she says, “about life, death, and hope. Hope is the critical factor in the human experience that gets us through the inevitable tragedies and pitfalls of life. Without hope, we die.”
The universal quality of Hart’s work begins with a personal impetus to create. She says that her new series was her outlet for handling her husband’s Stage IV cancer. It deals with mortality, fear, the fragility of life, the will to live, and the necessary hope to move forward and not be paralyzed.”
Hart says that the titles of the work hold a strong importance for her, and guided her in each work. Often, she explains, the title came first.
“‘Thin Skinned,’ is about the appearance of fragility when the scaffolding is resilient. Airiness, connections, threads, seeing through the top layer into the heart center are at the core of this piece,” she relates. “Other titles in this series include, ‘Dinner With Lazarus,’ ‘Pretending to be Fine,’ ‘Underneath,’ ‘Beast of Burden,’ and ‘CODA.’”
In each work, there is an almost ethereal quality, a majestic sweep, that speaks of man’s frailty and strength, the yin and yang of life’s impermanence.
Each of the works serve as hanging sculptures, but as the series progressed, artworks moved completely off the wall, as with “CODA,” shown in the two photographs above. Now, Hart is not merely invoking dimensionality, she is creating her own.
“The pieces intrude into the viewers’ space and force them to walk around it to take it all in. As in life, we must walk around to see the whole and take multiple perspectives,” she asserts. “Progression in life is not linear, but often a rat’s nest of connections which cannot be picked apart.”
The surfaces of Hart’s work have shifted from raw to a dense, richly processed archeology in which the process of her work and the message she is offering through it are packed. She says that her materials are chosen to support her emotional message. “Slicing through the surface would reveal an iterative process of construction and deconstruction. The surfaces often shimmer with a mineralization, as if from the earth,” Hart explains. The viewer feels in some cases as if he or she were “mining” the surface and delving beneath it into something ancient, fecund, and replete.
And speaking of materials, Hart says she began using mixed media and 3D materials when “I found I couldn’t express my intentions with a traditional 2D surface and paint,” she smiles.
The found objects that she’s incorporated into her work each have a personal significance to the artist, and are part of her history. Living adjacent to a national forest, she’s found deer bones, and uses an organic process to strip them.
“The bones become translucent and illuminated,” she reveals. “These found bones are a normal part of my life, my history. Bones are structural and the only evidence of life which lasts thousands of years. Rib bones surround and protect the heart. And these bones are beautiful, with elegant shapes and lines.”
It is not just the organic that Hart works with, however, as she incorporates other found items of meaning into her work, such as decades old barbed wire found hiking in the forest, and her husband’s empty syringes and pill bottles. Walking on railroad tracks she’s discovered rusted metal pieces of a train – “likely heading west with people filled with hope” aboard it.
A consummate visual storyteller, Hart creates to reflect the human condition, ultimately revealing both inner darkness and an inner light. Light and dark are both rooted within her sculptural depths, always to rise.
- Genie Davis; photos provided by artist/photo of the artist herself, Genie Davis