A conversation with Kate Kinder


    Brandon Geurts spoke with Kate Kinder about injecting agency into objects, exploring power dynamics in the inanimate, how we attach meaning to clutter, using patterns to confuse space and why interior space is an object that can be manipulated.

    While I’m not working in the studio, I’m trying to read and listen to podcasts that fuel a constant conversation with my work. There are many days when a painting is just a painting, and that simplicity is always refreshing.

    Brandon asked Kate what each of these colors remind her of.

    Urban Outfitters’ totally overrated autumn collection.

    Uh, outer space? Yeah. Outer space.

    An outdoor brunch party with some super-savvy, lavender-haired elderly women in the sunshine. With lots of pastel doilies and delicate glassware.

    The waters of the Aegean Sea in Kato Sounio, Greece, from the airplane window in 2015.


    Brandon Geurts

    Your paintings and drawings seem to have an animistic quality to them in terms of how objects are portrayed. The objects seem to take on a personality of their own even if they may not be able to act or make physical movements. Do you perceive these objects to have their own agency? Where do you make a distinction between objecthood and anthropomorphism?

    Kate Kinder

    I do inject agency into the objects I paint, for sure. However, I do think having their own agency and being anthropomorphic are different. I don’t really understand them to be humanlike, as they exist in the paintings with their own “physics,” if that makes sense. Since they’re not three-dimensional in our space, I feel that their agency is independent of humanlike personalities. Perhaps they overlap sometimes? But to me, anthropomorphism is too much like a dog with a human mouth, or a tree with hands and a face. I consider objecthood more of a condition of being, rather than a behavior or a characteristic. The distinction may be minute, but I do see a difference. I’m not giving a pizza slice a pair of legs or a wine glass a nose or anything like that.


    Can you provide some photos of your current studio setup? What are you currently working on?

    I’m so fortunate and excited to be working on two large scale commission pieces and a new body of work that is a little different from the works created in 2017. My studio is jam-packed with tons of smaller pieces, studies, tidbits of patterns, stamps, etc. I can’t reveal too many secrets, but you can see from my small studio space, I do have lots going on.


    In your artist statement, you describe the paintings as being about a human’s “theoretical and physical relationships to objects.” Do you find that the power dynamics of this relationship shift or change from painting to painting? Is one consistently dominant over the other?

    I definitely feel that relationship shift from painting to painting! I think when I approach my work from a theoretical standpoint, the process and product work as a constant Q&A. I don’t think I ever go into one piece with a decision about how I feel about it, and maybe sometimes I’m wondering if that power dynamic even exists. It’s exciting to have sort of an intellectual “refresh” button with every new piece. The paintings are really individual journeys that continuously challenge me to think about objects and their presence. While I’m not working in the studio, I’m trying to read and listen to podcasts that fuel a constant conversation with my work. There are many days when a painting is just a painting, and that simplicity is always refreshing.

    Subconsciously, our brains can be reminded of things we may have forgotten for a long time through color. I love inspecting the expansive gradients from my surroundings.


    Do you consider aspects of your paintings to be allegorical or autobiographical to your lived experience? When we were working in a shared studio space at USF (University of South Florida), I remember you would source colors from places you’ve been or experiences you had. Is this something you continue to explore in your practice?

    Absolutely. I may be crazy, but I see allegory and autobiography in all artists’ work. As an artist, isn’t it kind of impossible not to inject yourself into your work, even if you try not to? By trying not to, aren’t you just doing the thing you’re thinking about not doing? I think our lived experience is the only thing we truly understand as individual human beings. I am constantly snapping photos on my phone, pinning on Pinterest, collecting images from books, collecting fabric and color samples, sketching, listening and watching.

    Finding my color palettes from the real world via color apps on my phone create really rich and dynamic color landscapes for me to roll around through. I love inspecting the expansive gradients from my surroundings. Subconsciously, our brains can be reminded of things we may have forgotten for a long time through color. Or maybe the combination will illicit a feeling or a fleeting moment. The effect that color has on our bodies and minds is like a super power. As idealistic and romantic as it sounds, the narrative power of color is so potent and inspiring to me.


    Drawing somewhat from the previous question, it’s always interesting to think about the meaning we can attach to seemingly random objects. Whether we want to recognize it or not, I think most of us can think of some object that we have worked up a deep emotional response to based on our past experiences. Is there an object with a story you find meaningful enough to share?

    I love this idea. It’s so human for us to attach ourselves to things. Strangely, I have grown less and less afraid of discarding objects that I respond deeply to. Maybe my questions about objects have led to a further detachment of things. I am quite a bit more particular over the objects I do collect now, though. I do have some things that I’ve grown very attached to, like certain paintbrushes, a box that my father used to carry his art materials in, some ceramics my sister made, certain plants that I’ve kept alive for a long time, etc. I will share a story about a recent attachment to an object I cherish.

    A year and a half ago, I walked into my house and my seven-year-old, 17-pound cat, Nemo, was lying in my living room floor yowling. I panicked and immediately rushed him to the vet. After a traumatic few hours, he was euthanized. I was alone and sad and the vet assistant handed me this little booklet of all of these different shaped ceramic urns.

    I just remember thinking about how bizarre it was that you could cremate your pet and put it in a bejeweled treasure chest that looked like it should be at the bottom of an aquarium at Disney World. I thought it was really funny and it kind of made me think of those vinyl window obituary stickers that people put on the back of their cars when a person dies. I actually laughed out loud when I was looking through them.

    I chose a white cat sitting, paid the $85 for the damn thing, and left. When I went to pick it up after the vet left me an automated voicemail about my deceased pets’ ashes, I opened the brown paper bag and found two envelopes and a lumpy shape wrapped in gold tissue paper. One of the envelopes had a card that said something generic and so cheesy about a rainbow and death and being reunited one day and blah blah. The other envelope had the exact same thing in it by obvious mistake.

    And when I opened gold tissue paper, it was the wrong urn!

    It still had Nemo’s remains in it (I knew this because there was a neon orange sticker on the bottom of it with his name on it), but they put it in the wrong shaped urn. I mean, it didn’t really matter to me what the stuff was in at all. The entire experience was so weird and impersonal and generic and sterile. I laughed again when I pulled it out, but since then I’ve kept it in an obvious spot in my room for safekeeping.


    How does pattern fit into your practice? What function does it carry across to the environments your figures reside in? Is the specificity of pattern important to you?

    I use patterns predominately as a formal way to shift and confuse space. It’s so useful to layer and float patterns across planes. I also think it’s intriguing to think about the way that humans like to pattern things as a means of decoration and self expression. These repeated symbols might lose meaning when you see them scrunched up next to each other, like the magnet I use often, or just a little triangle or something like that. The negative space means just as much when you repeat an object over and over and I think that may also reinforce a shape’s meaning.

    The patterns are always formally important, and sometimes they do carry meaning. For example, a piece I’m working on currently includes some blobby leaflike shapes that are directly derivative of Henri Matisse’s collages — just like half of the painters in this world, I’m completely smitten with Matisse. If I am making a painting and thinking about a person, I might assign a symbol to that person that makes me think about them. For instance, I have used a hexagon symbol in the past in paintings with my sister in mind because she uses that shape a lot in her ceramics practice. Other times, just like the paintings themselves, the patterns exist just as patterns.

    I don’t see the space acting on the figures, like it’s dominating or somehow infecting them. I see them acting independently of each other, as if the interior space has its own agency and objecthood.


    The treatment of space in your paintings, particularly in your most recent painting, feels purposely ambiguous and shifting. Do you consider interior space itself to be an object that can be carved into or stretched out? Does the interior act on the figures inside?

    I definitely consider interior space an object that can be manipulated. I don’t see the space acting on the figures, like it’s dominating or somehow infecting them. I see them acting independently of each other, as if the interior space has its own agency and objecthood. When they blend and move together, I don’t see it as a violent or aggressive gesture at all.


    Does film or other art inform your own understanding of human relationships with objects? Is fiction something that influences when making your work?

    I think film and images definitely influence my logic of objects. Personally, I believe that our minds are super-powerful, and all of that content we’re constantly stuffing into our eyeballs somehow weaves its way back into our lives.

    I’m really into artists like Katherine Bernhardt, Katie Bell, John Mcallister, Daniel Gordon, Hope Gangloff… the list goes on and on. They all sort of approach objectness in their own ways. In terms of film, I can’t say I am equipped with a vast knowledge of film. But I have a deep love for lots of movies with homegrown, straight-from-the-kitchen special effects. I grew up watching Star WarsE.T.AlienJurassic Park, and I still revisit many old Jim Henson movies multiple times a year. I love Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead series, and the Neverending Story series — even the awful sequels, admittedly.

    Maybe those relationships with manipulating objects and making things come to life really do come into play in some ways. Perhaps making people believe something is what it isn’t fascinates me about objecthood in painting.


    Finally, has living in Florida influenced the kind of imagery or colors you use in your work? I feel like Florida is such a bizarre state that it kind of leaves a permanent mark in your mind.

    Florida is such a bizarre state! Coming from Kentucky, I’m used to spending time outside among the vegetation and creatures. So, transitioning into Florida’s color palette and Tampa’s peculiar urban landscape has definitely had a massive impact on my work. The neon lights and tropical plants are like a bull in a China shop, invading my color palettes and shape vocabulary. They really just have a way of demanding real estate in my paintings — and I’m totally OK with that.

    The combination of organic and architectural shapes as well as colors that Florida has gifted me with will probably be launched in my work for a very long time. This kind of tacky, gradient, neon, creamsicle, seafoam, tropical, glowing aesthetic is so in vogue right now, and I feel like I’ve landed in such a great spot for it.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 154
    Curated by: Brandon Geurts
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: March 27, 2018
    Total questions: 9
    Word count: 2018
    Reading time: Seven minutes


    Estate: Demanded
    Function: Pattern
    Space: Shifted
    Urn: Reversed
    Agency: ∞


    About the subject

    Kate Kinder is a studio painter, illustrator and graphic designer who obtained her Master’s in Fine Arts at University of South Florida.

    About the curator

    Brandon Geurts paints bodies. He is a visual artist who has done work for musicians such as Marissa Nadler and Yautja. He received his MFA from University of South Florida in 2017 and currently resides in the Washington DC area.


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