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Kathryn Geismar

paintings and collages

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art by somerville artist Kathryn  Geismar titled  karma.krusade
karma.krusade acrylic, graphite, tape and Duralar on Tyvek 80x36
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Artist's Statement

 I am not one and simple, but complex and many.                                           -- Virginia Woolf, The Waves

 

My work explores the complex and often fragmentary nature of identity through portraits and abstract 

Over the past year I have been drawing and painting young adults who are identity fluid and genderqueer. One of these subjects is my child, others are their friends.  All have all generously trusted me to document and depict them. It has felt like an intimate conversation, at once vulnerable and guarded. 

The materials I have chosen to use are a combination of the traditional (paint, graphite, canvas) and the non-traditional (Tyvek, Duralar, grommets). Figures move in and out of focus; layers of Duralar promote looking through to substrata; grommets pierce through layers at times like jewelry and at other times like windows into what lies below.  The portraits on Tyvek hang, unframed, away from the wall, held up by slim T-pins, floating free. Nothing is pinned down; they are simultaneously finished and unfinished. These Tyvek portraits are in conversation with more formal ones in oils or acrylics in which I am using more traditional materials to depict tradition-changers. 

The titles for the portraits refer to each subject’s social media handles, names they have given themselves when appearing in the public eye.  These names, like the makeup, piercings and clothes, are self-expression and also a kind of armor.  It felt important that the participants could name themselves in my portraits of their bodies.   

Alongside the portraits, I have made abstract collages using Tyvek as a substrate. As in the portraits, layers of painted Duralar both hide and reveal.  The collages were a personal response to the figurative imagery and continue my exploration of being at once seen and hidden. In each collage I felt that I was discovering a whole form bit by bit, trusting in the process and the materials to lead me to a final, layered design.  As a way to claim these forms as my own, they are framed but, within the frame, they hang from grommets held up by T-pins. The collages, like the portraits, are both whole and fragmentary, adorned yet unpolished. 

The young adults I depicted have been dressing, painting, and piercing themselves into being. I have been painting, drawing, and layering my way into seeing. We are each finding form in the ambiguous, feeling our way.

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