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What neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Sunset Park. I moved to this neighborhood from Crown Heights to try and get my studio and apartment in the same area. I love this neighborhood; it’s calm, with great food, and I can be in my studio in five minutes.
How do you start a new project?
I start projects by drawing and looking at a lot of stuff. I draw out ideas; most of them don’t go any farther than a drawing, but some make it out into a piece. For the more site-specific works, I make models. The models aren’t to scale or exact; they are miniature versions of ideas. Using actual material, rather than paper and pen, allows me to think about how the material is going to act in a space.
Do you have a studio routine? How often are you able to work in your studio?
I am in my studio three full days a week, Monday through Wednesday, and most nights. I am trying to get into a steady routine, but I always feel like I am trying to find one and it never stays consistent. It's best for me to have at least five projects going at once so there is always one that I feel like picking up when I get in there.
Your work is abstract and often resembles packages or is made from piles of wood and paper. How do you decide what your work should look like?
I think a lot about the surface of walls, the layers behind walls, and how we compile the structures that hold us. Most of these surfaces are abstract: faux-marble, drywall spray, linoleum, textured wallpaper, etc. In my work these materials are my palette and I am trying to describe an experience with these surfaces.
Is there a driving concept behind what you make?
I use my studio as a test site where I can bring things and look at them. I can move them around, put things together, build, and ask questions. I think about the history of the material, what’s behind it, what will be in front of it, and why this is our visual language.
Is there an artist or exhibition that's had an especially significant impact on
your development recently?
I saw a show of Mika Rottenberg’s at Mary Boone a couple of years ago where she showed her video "Squeeze." That video and the presentation of it had such an impact on me—I still think about that piece all the time.
You have a very robust show history outside of New York. How did that
It has all evolved very organically. I had work in Art Chicago a few years ago and that lead to a show in Kansas City, a curator saw my work at that show and told a gallery in Austin, TX, about my work which lead to a show there. I also grew up and lived in Illinois until I was 23 and many of the Midwest shows are from friends and people I know from my time there.
Is there another medium or style of work that you'd like to explore or have
started to experiment with?
My background is in painting and drawing. My work is very sculptural, but it is only recently that I have begun making freestanding objects. It is a really different challenge to think about something sitting in space rather than coming off the wall.
How do you describe your work to your parents?
I think my parents describe my work better than I do. My mom is an interior designer of sorts; she mainly picks paint colors for various types of spaces. She did a job recently where she was picking an exterior color for a car dealership in Rockford, IL, and the way she was talking about it made me think, yeah, that’s what my work should be about. My dad is a contractor and does restoration work on older homes. He is constantly building stuff, fitting things together, and uncovering surfaces. My parents are from different kinds of making worlds than where my work fits in, but the language is all the same, and I think they think that is funny.
Tear Peak, Acrylic, vinyl, plaster, nails, wood, drywall, foam, laminate, and vertical blinds on wall, 6.5’ x 10’, 2011
Brooklyn Art Stars: Katie Bell