Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Collaboration with Namesake Vintage

A couple of months back I made these backdrops for Namesake Vintage's Pre-Fall 2015 look book...

Namesakes: Katie Bell

Your studio is located in Sunset Park - in an area known as “Industry City” - that has rapidly evolved into a community of artisans and renovated studio/office spaces. How long have you been here and how do you feel about this change? 
I’ve had my studio in Sunset Park for four years. I live really close by so I’m in the neighborhood all the time. I share the space with my partner, so we’ve seen this change together. When we first moved in there were still a lot of artists and small businesses, as well as a ton of vacant space.  Just in the last year there’s been a lot of big box stores moving in, so it’s identity is really shifting. It used to be an artist’s haven where you could have a lot of space and now those space are being taken over by businesses like Williams-Sonoma, who’s one of my neighbors.  The time is ticking here, and all over Brooklyn, to have space that is affordable.  For now, I am in Sunset Park and really enjoy working here.

There’s so much to look at in here! Quick - what’s your favorite object?
The Kleenex box in the paper mache rock. I made it when I was in grad school. I made a whole series of them and gave them away. People probably just threw them away, it wasn’t meant to be a “thing”.  It reminds me of grad school but also the idea of just goofing around in the studio. I think sometimes I forget to do that now. In school, maybe because you’re with this group of people for an extended time, it kind of fosters that prankster mentality where you’re just messing around with people and being funny late at night.

How would you define your artistic style?
I make work in different scales and materials, but the common thread that ties everything together is dualities- light/heavy hard/soft, rough/gentle. The piece that I’m working on now has this delicate balance of thin sticks and these really heavy, aggressive plaster marks.  What defines my artistic style is swinging back and forth between these extremes. I think that also defines me in terms of my personality, where I'm able to be two things at the same time. Strong but also really weak or smart and ditzy, a kind of play between forces.

What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
I don’t think I have a favorite; I’m just always looking for new things. I am someone who has always had collections, -rocks, stamps, corks, stickers, etc.  I am always on the hunt for something. Construction and building materials have become my latest collection. Whatever material I have in my hand is the favorite.  It is about the finding and bringing together rather than the individual on its own.

Your work is very textural - much of which is clearly the result of mindful, well- executed layering. Would you say your personal style reflects your work? If so, how?
Sometimes I feel like when I look at my closet or the way my shoes are laid out it starts to reflect a painting of mine.  It gets a little scary when I’m dressing like my art, but there is something to be said for that.  Since it is the same eye looking at my work and dressing myself, I sometimes come up with similar solutions.  I like subtle textures, like a wool sweater with a felted skirt.  There’s a similar balance that I’m trying to find with my work and that of my wardrobe, where I want to be noticed over time not just stand out in the room because I’m wearing something flashy. I hope there is a slowness to the way I dress, in that there are small details you won’t notice unless you hang out with me for a while. I guess that’s similar with my work, where it can be like one major move but a lot of it reveals itself over time with careful looking.

Why did you choose this dress?
I chose this piece because to me it's classic with a few unique moments. Like the buttons on this piece are really nice and contrast to the color of the dress. I love a dress with pockets because I’m working in my studio a lot and so they come in handy.  The buttons up the front are nice; you can make it a bit sexy when you’re going out. Today I wore this dress when I was at work teaching and now I’m at the studio.  It is a versatile, classic piece and of course the color is totally me.

If you could choose, what {object/action/feeling} would be your namesake?
My namesake would be the feeling when you’re carrying something heavy and you’re arms start shaking really hard and then finally you drop it.  It is the best feeling when you drop it, but then you always have 10 more blocks to walk.  That’s the “Katie Bell”. In some ways that sounds extreme, but one of the biggest things about my work is that I’m carrying stuff all the time.  Not in a weird heroic way, but I just have to carry stuff from one place to another.  My hands and pockets are always full.
Posted on October 18, 2015 and filed under interview.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Drywall, laminate, foam, fiberglass, and carpeting sound more like materials for a home renovation than a painting. But for artist Katie Bell, interiors have infiltrated her work so much that building materials have become her paint and 30-foot walls her canvas. “I work with rough discarded building materials, but I want them to appear as elegant paint strokes, splatters, and lines,” Bell states. “I’m looking for colors, shapes, lines, and forms that could make up something bigger.”

Playing with the dichotomy of hard and soft, light and heavy, Bell’s large-scale installations in faux-marble and thick, pastel paint splatters leave you guessing at their fragility. Ahead of the opening of tonight’s show Surface Matters at The Knockdown Center, we caught up with Katie to talk about hot tubs, “chips and dip” paintings, and... dog bones?

CECILIA SALAMA: Do you see your installations as paintings?
KATIE BELL: I see all of my work as coming from a conversation about painting and drawing. I studied painting in school, so I think in some way, I am programmed to think in a painting space first, even though my works are extremely sculptural.

Tell me about your process. How do you start designing a work? 
A huge part of my work is drawing. Since the scale of the work is pretty big, the drawings I make beforehand help me think through my ideas. Once I come up with something I am excited about, I make a model. They have become an important part of working through ideas fast.

I also noticed a dog bone in your studio...
I have a few dog bones, but no dog though. Sometimes I end up buying things just because I like their color or shape. I like the color of rawhide and the funny knot shapes that dog bones make.

How do you go about sourcing your home materials? 
I pick a lot of stuff up off of the street or in dumpsters. My studio is in a cabinet shop, so I get a lot of remnants from them as well. Certain items are slightly more specialized. For instance, recently I was trying to track down a used hot tub. During a visit to Phoenixville, PA I had befriended a woman who runs a pool and spa store who now lets me come in to cut into old hot tubs she’s throwing out. She’s even started texting me pictures of hot tubs that come into the store.

Tell me a bit about the pieces you are installing for the Surface Matters group show at The Knockdown Center.
I am showing three new paintings, works on plaster panels that sit on laminate shelving. In addition to those paintings, I have been working on-site to create a wall installation using the drywall as the canvas. There are laminate shards cutting into the wall, plaster splatters, and paint washes that create a 3D wallpaper of sorts. I have been describing the piece as chips and dip: the wall is the dip and I am just putting a bunch of chips in it.

Surface Matters, curated by Holly Shen and Samantha Katz, opens September 24th at The Knockdown Center and runs through October 17. 

The Knockdown Center
52-19 Flushing Ave
Maspeth, NY

Knockdown Center, 'Surface Matters'


 Carolyn Salas in the foreground.