Katharine Weber, mixed media artist
My work references my grandmother’s creative process. I place cloth on my canvas backdrop, echoing the way my grandmother placed material on her padded tables to make drapery. I use a method of binding fabric to an under painting to bring to the surface the underlying conflict between order and chaos found in our surroundings. When the under painting is finished, I bind the fabric overlay to the canvas with an acrylic medium. As it dries, the folds and undulations of the material are frozen into place. The cloth appears to be wet, and retains some translucency. The sculptural fabric reveals and conceals the underlying painting in a dramatic way. Thus the struggle between order and chaos which is usually hidden behind the details of a scene is brought to the surface, switching places with the more recognizable painted picture.
“My grandmother was my inspiration. She was a drapery maker. She had an over-sized table in her basement, covered in padded thick canvas, upon which to measure and pin her large pieces of fabric. That basement was ringed with upper windows on two sides that allowed square beams of light to infiltrate at just the right time of day. The lengths of fanciful fringes and braiding were tucked away under sewing machines and tables, attached to Styrofoam forms with large T pins. I remember sitting under those tables as a child, on the aged floor, pairing and stabbing the fringe into decorative layers while the other children played upstairs with more traditional toys. I don’t know if she knew I was down there in the basement, with the old black and white tube television encased in a wood cabinet. My guess is that she did know, and that she allowed me to create. She was also an artist.”
At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?
“Later, I entered an art contest and was so excited because I had painted a rainbow with just yellow, orange, and red. I knew those three colors looked great together, long before I understood the meaning of the term analogous color scheme. I intuitively understood what looked good, and I somehow knew I could develop those skills to make something appealing. That desire to create beautiful things compelled me, even at 6 years old. From that time on, I always replied “artist” when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
Which classical or contemporary artists have inspired you?
“I discovered Eva Hesse’s sculptures in an art history class and was instantly drawn to her use of structure to present organic, flowing elements. The geometry in her work, as well as the uncontrollable qualities of her medium, are reflected in my painting technique.
“It’s interesting to me that so much of nature is highly structured — take the organized center of a flower, for example. Yet we associate nature with the opposite — a lack of order, and irregular edges. This juxtaposition of the controllable and the uncontrollable in nature, and in Eva Hesse’s work, is beautiful to me.”
I am also fascinated by the ancient Greek sculptors, who carved their figures as though the draping material of their robes was drenched. This “wet drapery” style of sculpting was done to emphasize the movement and form of the figure beneath the clothes. Weber, too, uses fluid to cause the material on her paintings to flow and reveal, creating a similar sculptural outcome.
How would you describe your artistic style?
When did you first sell an artwork? How did you feel?
What's your workstyle? Do you work on one piece at a time or work simultaneously on multiple pieces?
How do you get the inspiration for a new piece?
While we associate the term “organic” with free-flowing, natural, and irregular forms, nature–when viewed closely–is highly mathematical and structured. However, the exactness of this structure is subjected to outside forces that cause uncontrollable movement and beautiful outcomes.
As humans, we face a similar struggle to balance disorder and order. We try to maintain a façade of having everything in its place, while the reality of our situation and our emotions may be out of control. As with nature, the struggle between order and chaos makes life interesting and beautiful.”
I use the imagery of mountainous and urban environments as inspiration. I represents each of my landscapes through the geometry of pieced fabric, as a nod to the organization of nature.
I create an underpainting of the landscape with a focus on its emotional impact. When both the painting and the fabric are completed, I join them together using an acrylic medium. Elements of the underpainting are visible through the fabric as it hardens.
The cloth retains a translucency, as though still wet. As the painting dries, the rigid geometry of the fabric gives way to the organic, undulating tug of the cloth that occurs after each piece is sewn together. The resulting combination of material and painting has been described as inviting, awe-inspiring, and beautiful.
The first thing viewers want to do,is touch the surface. I encourage them to do so. There’s something so intimate and embracing about fabric. We live in it, we sleep in it, and we feel it brush our skin every day. Cloth protects us and comforts us and we feel a personal connection to it. This connection extends to my paintings.
Tell us a bit about your personal life ...
A few pieces from Katharine’s gallery
Why they love Katharine’s art
More about Katharine
Shows & Exhibitions
Juror: Sarah Solis Mattson
Sacramento Fine Arts Center – Focus on Fiber
Blue Line Arts – By Hand
Juror: Elisabeth R. Agro, Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
MarinMOCA – Summer National Juried Exhibition
For Your Art – (en)Gendered (in)Equity: The Gallery Tally Poster Project