Over the 2022 Summer Residency we had the opportunity to get an in depth perspective of Kate Rusek, her work, and some of the story behind her pieces. We caught up with Kate before she packed up her studio space to ask about her time here at GoggleWorks. A significant change from the bustle and hustle of New York City to the hiking trails of Reading, Pennsylvania, we want to know how this environmental shift changed her perspective on her work, process, and execution.
What was your most creative or unique experience?
“This residency has been characterized by experimentation. It was an ambitious goal to start working in ceramics having been away from it for many years. Prior to my work here, my experience with this medium has been limited. The encouragement and support I received from the staff and renters was really incredible. Ben (DeMott) and Tim (Compton) have been so helpful. I have been able to execute some exciting experimental processes with their critical input to inform this new ceramic work. I prefer a process based, rather than an outcome based approach to my work when it feels appropriate. It is so fruitful to sit with these new outcomes knowing there is so much uncertainty built into that way of working. Letting go of some control where I don’t know every nuance of what the outcome will be is an exciting landscape of discovery.”
We asked Kate to elaborate more on the processes of the new techniques she was working with here at GoggleWorks.
“I’m an aesthetically driven artist, I want to inject visual interest in ways that are intuitively appealing. That definition has become something really open ended over the last many weeks. In a process-based practice I begin to ask myself adjacent questions like, ‘Am I enjoying these actions? Does my body feel good doing them?’ and then after that series of steps, ‘Does the outcome fit into the subject matter I am considering?’ There have been plenty of yeses as well as some surprises. This experimentation is exciting because I get the chance for the work to reveal thought connections I hadn’t yet put into words. It is vital information to then start the process again or/and adjust the direction in subtle ways. For example, the porcelain burnout pieces literally integrate textiles into ceramics to where we burn out the positive material in the kiln and the porcelain shell is left. A permanent indicator of a passage of time, a history of what once was present and is now only present in its absence creates the object. I love these pieces as metaphors for a wide breadth of human experiences, complex things hard to put into words but felt deeply. Working with slip casting is also very interesting for similar reasons. In the making, I am subject to many subtle conditions of the clay bodies and the deliberate precision or imprecision of the process. It has been exciting to tune in to different directions to manipulate the outcomes.”
Did any of your concepts or processes fluctuate during the residency?
“Very gratefully, they did! There was some aspiration to start drawing and create something like a two dimensional translation of three-dimensional work, but they never came into fruition. It’s still a very interesting concept, but not as interesting right now, as what I’ve uncovered. I feel more steady and embodied in the overlapping ideas I have been considering over the past few years. I cast a wide net in terms of concepts I am thinking about somatically, and let the making of the work and my motivations reflect experiences in my life that I want to better understand. Presenting nuance around ambivalence, a conversation I want to have more and more via the work, is a different lens than talking about, for example, reproductive decisions, grief and loss, or climate change from a pragmatic sense.”
“I’m thinking about climate health, the health of the oceans, the links between the movements in the female body and the tides of the ocean. What that means for living, for how we care about our planet, and the questions that need deeper thought related to our connections to each other and our environment. The porcelain burnouts look like something that came out of the sea, they look barnacle-like, they look shell-like. They have these textures and organic shapes, that again, are created loosely out of my control, a collaboration between me and forces of the earth: heat, moisture, gravity, clay characteristics. I decide on a few parameters and then I leave it to the will of the kiln and the nature of the porcelain. The way it behaves and the way I behave begins a conversation. I am thinking about this series of ‘Ritual Bowls’ I’ve created while in residence. They are recording an action, a capture of time, sometimes in solitude, sometimes while have a conversation with another person, that results in a physical object. It is an atypical slip casting technique in which I am using my body to manipulate the clay, swirling it around, building up layers, somewhat like the way calcium layers build up in an oyster shell. It is a performative act where I follow intuition and the nature of the material with curiosity to test what could happen in these processes. This is another interesting seed to think about more and carry into future work.”
If you could go back to the beginning of the residency would you change anything?
“I’m gonna say no, actually, I want to give a hard ‘no’ to that notion because I’m trying to keep creative pathways open as a means to learn. This way I think about art making and creative work is rooted so much in the journey of experimentation in life and art.”
Do you feel that you accomplished your goals during your residency?
“10 weeks was a nice long time to be concentrating on my work and I have taken that pretty seriously in terms of how productive I’ve tried to be. That’s not always how one has to approach a residency. If I needed 10 weeks to read and research and think and write at my own pace that would have felt successful too. Residencies are valuable for a range of experiences. For me, at this point in my practice, with these facilities, the experts around me, and space to experiment with freedom to set my own expectations, ambitious making felt right. I leaned hard into production and feel proud of the work I’ve produced. I’ve moved quite far into this body of work and it has expanded. That was a goal, going deeper into the craft aspects of my making, putting in the hours towards time consuming processes and walking away with some healthy uncertainty towards new possibilities. I want that to continue to be a defining characteristic of my practice and it has felt good to settle into this mode for an uninterrupted period of time. I’m following this thread of curiosity and refining meaning as I’m making objects. I love this practice of unclutching, of not being too tightly devoted to a specific outcome. I want this in my life and my work. A practice to create meaning through doing and reflection. On my best days this is a practice of experiencing delight.”
What would you say is your most memorable moment while in Reading?
“I was able to get out in the woods quite a bit while in residence. I spent some really wonderful Saturdays and evenings in the forest around Reading. This is where life and practice overlap quite a bit. It is incredibly generative for me to be in the woods, with some space to think and a space to tune my brain into the subtleties of the outdoors. It is so helpful to have a little distance from my work and be in a place that makes me feel very comfortable, awash in the trees, and do that good ‘forest bathing’. Hiking, walking, and running are all very generative practices for my brain. I spent a beautiful Saturday on Hawk Mountain putting one foot in front of the other seeing that landscape. Being in a really beautiful, conserved area was one really wonderful brain break.”
What are plans after the residency is over?
“Taking some time off, definitely. Just spending a little time away from my work, being in a different mindset than I have experienced over the last 10 weeks. I plan to move from a real focus on production, to travel and writing, in order to integrate the thoughts, feelings, and review photos of the work from a new vantage point; to look at this body of work from a slightly outside perspective, to continue to make meaning of it. I’m excited to think about my trajectory as a result of my time at GoggleWorks, where I want to lead my practice next. It’ll be a change of pace to take a little unstructured time. More concretely, I wanna be like in, on, or staring at the sea as much as possible for the next many weeks.”
Keep up with Kate at http://katerusek.com and on Instagram @thekaterusek as she heads towards her next adventure. Make sure to check out the GoggleWorks 2022 Summer Residency Exhibition in Cohen Gallery West from August 12th until October 21st, 2022.