Today we’d like to introduce you to Katy Krantz.
Hi Katy, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’ve been making art since I was a kid. I especially loved the tactile nature of painting and clay. My mom was an art teacher and always encouraged my efforts. We moved around a lot when I was growing up and making things was a source of steadiness and solace throughout all the moves to different cities and states. We eventually settled in the Bay Area.
When I got to college at UC Santa Cruz, I continued taking art classes but was torn between making art and learning about American History, Feminist Theory and Ethnic Studies. My mind was blown by the work of Howard Zinn, Toni Morrison, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault and so many others. Learning about the millions of different ways that the world is quite f*cked up made me want to turn away from art and lean into areas of study that would result in tangible benefits to our society. I decided to double major in Art and American Studies and briefly considered applying to law school. But making art always called me back and I eventually realized that being an artist was key to my happiness and mental health.
To deepen my practice, I decided to go to graduate school and attended Hunter College in New York in the early 2000’s. While grad school was tough, I met amazing colleagues and friends who have continued to support me as an artist. All the while, I’ve worked as an educator to financially support my practice. My definition of success has been less about awards and shows (though those are nice too) and mostly about building a sustainable practice that allows me to make art on a regular basis. I am extremely fortunate to have a supportive partner who has always encouraged me to make time and space for my work, especially after the birth of our two children.
In the last six years, my practice has shifted to focus on community-based public projects. My last project was a ceramic tile mural at a new community center in Santa Clarita with community members contributing their own handmade tiles. The project felt like the coming together of many disparate elements in my life. Not only did the tile mural format combine my longtime mediums of painting and ceramics, but I was able to work as both an artist and an educator.
Now, more than ever, we need to be able to imagine new futures and possibilities. We need creative minds to work on our seemingly insurmountable problems. We need people to think like artists. I have found working within communities rewarding because I’m able to share the experience of art-making with others. And while that art-making experience may be brief, it offers an opportunity to relax and have fun and might even spark a new way of thinking and understanding.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I was fortunate to have parents and friends that supported my decision to become an artist. However, like most artists, finding the space to make my work and the time to make it has been a constant challenge. LA has some of the highest rents in the country which is incredibly tough on artists, especially those just starting out. To pay the bills, I always worked part-time as an educator, but I never had quite enough money to make ends meet. I wracked up quite a bit of credit card debt in my twenties and thirties. Now in my mid-forties, my finances are more stable, but it’s still a struggle to carve out the time to work. With two young kids in the picture, it’s even more challenging. There have been times that I felt maintaining a regular art practice was a fight. The good news is that after my kids were born and time became even more scarce, any trepidation and self-doubt about my work sort of disappeared. I don’t worry as much about whether the work is good enough. It’s like, “I’m making work!” And that alone feels like a triumph.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My work encompasses a range of practices including painting, ceramics, and community-based public art. In all of my projects, my work centers around process. I am continually drawn to techniques in which chance and surprise play a considerable role. In painting, this can take the form of using my non-dominant hand to hold the brush, thereby creating marks that feel unfamiliar. Along those same lines, I use a printmaking technique in my paintings that entails applying paint to styrofoam shapes and then pressing the shapes into the fabric or paper. The outcome is unpredictable, sometimes resulting in an image that is quite beautiful, other times looking heavy and clogged. I don’t see this loss of control as a failure but as vital to my practice.
In my ceramic work, I am obliged to deal with the surprises that inevitably come with firing at a high range. I embrace the cracks and imperfections in my ceramics because they record the volatile process of making and firing. The process becomes a collaboration between my intentions, the willingness of the clay, and the heat of the kiln. There is always some anxiety upon seeing the newly fired work because surprises, both good and bad, are a part of the deal. A work feels finished when it resonates with the dynamic process in which it was made.
This search for unpredictability is one of the reasons collaborations appeal to me. This past fall, I completed my largest project to date— “Circle Song,” a ceramic tile wall mural commissioned by the City of Santa Clarita. The 5’ x 50’ mural is installed on a freestanding wall facing the newly constructed Canyon Country Community Center. The mural is comprised of over 3000 handmade tiles. About 600 of the tiles were created by community members in a series of workshops. At the workshops, which were held at local parks and trailheads, participants were given small slabs of wet clay in ziplock baggies. They were asked to take a walk, paying close attention to the sights and sounds around them. Participants then used the clay to make an impression of a texture they encountered on their outing. The resulting tiles, collected by the hands of the community, provide an eclectic record of the Santa Clarita Valley’s flora and fauna. This inclusive, fail-proof spirit is what I’m after in all of my community-engaged work.
- Website: www.katykrantz.com
- Instagram: @kckrantz
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