Katharine Ryals is an artist from Little Rock, Arkansas, who graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia followed by an MFA and a Certificate in Museum Education at Brooklyn College. Katharine is currently pursuing the process of art making and presently lives and works in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Despite being trained in photography, she is currently working on 3D objects, wearables, and installations. Recently, she discussed her experiences working as an artist and her hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: How and when did you decide to become an artist?
Katharine Ryals (KR): I’ve known I was an artist from a very young age, but it was the question of whether to pursue it as a career or not. By the end of high school, I had moved away from drawing and painting, and was very into photography. Having decided that I wanted to be a fashion photographer, I enrolled in the Photography program at SCAD. After taking business classes, interning and learning more about the commercial art world, I knew I didn’t want to give up creative freedom to a commercial art career, and found my place as a visual artist.
MM: Growing up, which artists/types of art interested you?
KR: As I mentioned in my bio, I am from Arkansas, which as you can imagine, isn’t exactly a culture and arts capital. I was always drawn to surrealism and remember having several books on the subject. Salvador Dali. Man Ray. Pop art… AndyWarhol. Nothing too obscure, really. The usual stuff in which an artsy kid in the south would have access. I was also consuming a lot of films, specifically David Lynch films, and whatever else was in stock in the foreign and independent film section of the video store down the street from my house. Towards the end of high school, I went on a trip with my family to coastal France and Italy, and visited the modern art museum in Nice. I remember that being the first real encounter with contemporary art, and it blew my mind. I was so excited by everything that I saw. I still have the pictures from that visit on an old hard drive somewhere.
MM: How would you describe your work and what inspires it?
KR: My recent work I’ve described as Dolly Parton voodoo and hillbilly rococo. Overall, my work is morbid, monstrous, feminine, grotesque, and carnivalesque. It’s shiny and it’s unsettling. You might be creeped out by it, but you can’t look away. I am concerned with exploitation, alienation, and the human condition. The sacred and the profane. The natural and the artificial. Artifice and spectacle. Power and illusion.
MM: How did you go about getting into galleries and/or public showcases?
KR: I’m still working on that. From what I have learned, it is researching and applying to opportunities on artist resource sites like College Art Association, NYFA, and Call For Entry. Additionally, I think being active in your local art community and networking is the best way to get into galleries and such. Keeping an eye out for professional development workshops helps as well.
MM: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?
KR: I don’t have a favorite, but I have favorites. Most of what I included in the Governors Island Art Fair are definitely some of the works that I value the most, including both the tintype photographs and sculpture pieces. I do love the goopy, sparkly rawhide piece that I had on display at the fair. I think it summarizes my personality pretty well. Which can be described as something like “Priscilla Queen of the Swamp”.
MM: What are your mediums of choice?
KR: My mediums of choice include analog and digital photography, alternative printmaking with photography, and assemblage sculpture. In my sculptural work, I often work with fabric, latex, silicone, and found objects such as vintage jewelry and animal bones.
MM: Are there any mediums that you haven’t worked with yet but hope to soon?
KR: Yes, there’s actually quite a few. I’d like to learn 3D printing and digital animation, projection mapping, and mold making and casting.
MM: When and how did you develop your style?
KR: I have long been interested in the morbid as well as kitsch, and I think moving to New York really pushed me into finding my voice. Having so much access to historical and contemporary material and visual culture, I was inspired to really just start infusing all of my personal interests and curiosities together to form this style.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?
KR: Definitely other people being excited about what I’m doing as an artist. I can’t make art for myself. A lot of artists say that – “I make art for me, so I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” I don’t. I definitely want people to get something out of it. I want to create interesting, engaging things that excite people – not just art world people. Because I know when I see art that makes me see something in a new way, is thought provoking, elicits a feeling within me, how wonderful that is. It’s so rewarding to be overwhelmed by a work of art. To feel connected to it. To find personal meaning in it. To be inspired by it. To step into some else’s world.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?
KR: Work hard. Work hard until every few weeks you feel like giving up and living a somewhat normal life. Don’t be selfish. Network, grow your community, help and support each other (other artists). Find a mentor. Find multiple mentors.
MM: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
KR: Yes! My work is part of a show with SHIM at ArtHelix in Bushwick, which is curated by SHIM Connector, Lauren Elise Hirshfield. There will be an opening on Friday November 4th. I will also have a piece in the UnReal DiaTribe exhibition at Gallery Petite (owned by artist Tyrome Tripoli) in Bushwick, which opens on November 11th and closes on December 4th.
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To learn more about Katharine Ryals, visit her official website. Her work can also be seen here, here and here. Additionally, she can be followed on social media via @kitsch_witch