'Tell You Later,' Katy Richards
Following a ‘Preview Reception’ Wednesday, August 19th from 6 to 8 p.m., HEDGE Gallery at 78th Street Studios this Friday will host the latest works by Katy Richards in 'See Myself Something Different' as part of the scaled-back Third Fridays event.
The title of the exhibition comes the song lyrics of “Oh Well” by Fiona Apple:
“What you did to me made me
See myself something different
Though I try to talk sense to myself
But I just won't listen…”
“I decided to use it for the title of the exhibition because I use myself as a subject in a lot in my work," said Richards. "I’m someone who does not like having my picture taken, but I will photograph myself for the purposes of using it to make a painting. The process of painting myself goes through steps of breaking down the image into color, mark and form, and in that process I’m seeing myself something different.”
For this series, Richards crops token sections of the human form and, with a seemingly ‘hyper-focus,’ observes these encapsulated portions of the body and frames them nearly to abstraction. The viewer is able to lose themselves in the familiarity of the organic shapes and the flow of the glistening pigment without being distracted by the microcosmic perspective because the image feels whole.
“My process relies heavily on working wet into wet. Depending on the pressure and position of the brush I can pull forms out, have the brush strokes lay on top, as well as push and pull the paint, smoosh it back down, and blur the edges,” Richards said. “I get most excited getting lost in the mark making. I enjoy watching the illusion of representation emerge. Up close the surface of the painting is a variety of strokes of shifting color. Stepping back the images come into focus. Even with the most realistic painting there is always an element of abstraction. I like working with this tension between abstraction and representation.”
Richards’ medium for this series is oil paint and her brush strokes display an ardent fluidity. The forms pulsate with vibrancy injecting life into these seductive observations of the body. The imagery seems to be a declaration to intimacy while waltzing with the eye of the viewer along the contours of form. The series begs meditation on what it is to be human in the midst of a current hampered connectivity while some are deprived of the sense of touch.
One piece in particular, “Hand in Hand,” depicts two hands grappling with one another, nestled in the foreground of an indistinct, fleshy backdrop. It is as if one of the subjects is pulling the other up and out of some unseen toil. Perhaps is a commentary on how our human connection and how affection can help us summon strength from one another through the sense of touch.
Touch is the first of our senses to develop in the womb and our skin is our largest organ. From burning our butt on the hot vinyl seat of a car in the summer time to our first kiss, the sense of touch teaches us how to interact with the world around us.
Unfortunately, the act of touching can be a way in which COVID-19 can be spread. At a time when distance can be considered a custom of caring and respect, we are forced to capitulate to distancing ourselves from one another out of self-preservation and for the health and wellbeing of our loved ones and neighbors, rather than to succumb to our inherent need to connect and to be close.
“Touch and well-being are very connected. We’ve evolved to crave human connection. A simple hand shake releases oxytocin. The lack of positive physical touch negatively impacts us mentally and physically. It’s something that is recently getting more attention due to COVID-19. There is a very real thing called Touch Starvation, or Touch Hunger. Lack of touch doesn’t just make one feel depressed and lonely; it also increases cortisol levels, “stress hormones” which can cause a number of problems like high blood pressure, and suppress the immune system.”
Richards has been represented by HEDGE Gallery since 2015 and has recognized a camaraderie with fellow artist and director Hilary Gent.
“Hilary Gent has been very supportive of me and the work. She is also an artist so she understands what’s it’s like to have a studio practice, and for the work to change and evolve.”
As Richards prepares for the upcoming fall semester at Kent State University where she teaches painting and drawing courses, she meditates on the future and the prospect of ‘taking a step back’ from her subject matter: “In the studio I have early stages of a painting done, and I have been drawing sketches for new work. The future works are still focused on the body, but I’ve been thinking about zooming out a bit and incorporating more of a surrounding environment.”
The tickets for Third Fridays are $5 with a maximum of 300 guests allowed in. Fifty percent of the ticket sales will support participating artists. Entrance to the event’s attendees will be staggered; a hand sanitation station is available as ones enters. Guests will be required to wear a facial covering.
View Richards’ website here.
Tickets for Third Fridays can be found here