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

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