@KATE.CORROON.SKAKEL | WWW.KATESKAKEL.COM | BROOKLYN, NY | INSTALLATION
Your body and brain calm down, the fabric flows lightly around you, and you can be still.
Kate Corroon Skakel (b. 1992) is a multimedia artist currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. She is a trained metal worker, fabricator, photographer and printmaker, but is currently fascinated by fiber art. She grew up in New England, gathering inspiration and joy from the ocean and the way the light changed throughout the seasons. After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2016 with a dual major in history and studio art, Kate moved to New Orleans, LA, where she explored and fell in love with the American South. In 2018, Kate moved back North and settled in Brooklyn. Kate has exhibited in New York, Louisiana, Illinois, Vermont and Rhode Island, and has participated in the NYC Crit Club, Trestle Gallery’s Critical Feedback Program, Open Wabi Artist Residency, and Studio Faire Residency.
I create large scale, temporal installations made of paper, fabric and light, that challenge our preconceived notions of fragility, power and the ways in which we occupy space. My installations take the forms of alcoves or pathways, hung intuitively from ceilings and walls, in order to embrace the viewer. The disorienting use of light, combined with the softness of the fabric, create a totally immersive experience that can transport people out of their own world, into a space where they can allow themselves to feel tender. My pieces are rebellions against the politics of hard power. I am contradicting the notion that space should be taken up with brute force, and instead positing that we need to make room for fragility. We are rapidly losing our ability to be truly intimate with each other. Between technologies that were meant to bring us closer together but instead alienate us, or the constant hustle that we are forced into, we need reminders to be tender. When inviting viewers into my works, I am asking them to suspend their disbelief and their frustrations, and instead to be still, for a few moments.
Kate Skakel's Richard Serra's Walls - fiber, LED lights - 2019
How do you envision viewers interacting with your installations and navigating space?
Through my work, I am trying to encourage people to embrace stillness in themselves. We are always moving the fastest we can: you run from work, to your family, to your friends, to your errands... the list goes on. We don’t really allow ourselves to sit, to question ourselves, and to contemplate. I am making installations that people are encouraged to walk through, enter, or move around. The light I’m using is disorienting and tricks your eyes a little: while you know conceptually what you are seeing, you can’t get a firm grip on it. The viewers movement, combined with the power of the lights, works a bit like a guided mediation. Your body and brain calm down, the fabric flows lightly around you, and you can be still.
8 Sides Make A Circle - fiber, LED lights - 2019
You move with ease between two and three dimensions. How do you arrive at decisions regarding the flatness or objectness of a particular work?
I am deeply curious about craft, materials, and how we use labor to show care; I connect to the world through the objects that I make. My curiosity has driven me to learn about a variety of mediums: wood, metal, printmaking, painting, fiber, photography. I tend to fall down a lot of rabbit holes. I pride myself on having an extremely adaptable practice. I live in Brooklyn, where space is one of the biggest commodities: when I am working in my studio there, I tend to work on a smaller scale, and two dimensionally, out of necessity. If I am on residency, or randomly have access to a wood or metal shop, I jump at the chance to physically expand my work. My practice is often driven by necessity and curiosity.
A Fire is Burning - fiber, LED lights - 2019
Can you tell us about the formal and conceptual use of layering within your work?
I layer materials when there is a transparency to them, and usually am trying to direct the viewers eye more deeply into the piece. Generally, when layering, I am also using brighter colors than if I wasn’t, and put the bright colors behind softer, lighter colors. Formally, having a layered piece makes people keep looking, keep discovering, and noticing the differences and details within the work. I tend to layer objects more when I am making smaller pieces, so while a viewer can’t physically fit inside a piece, I am still creating a space within the work. Conceptually, I am encouraging people to dig deeper and take the time to further understand each other.
How did you arrive at the particular color palette of How To Push Each Other?
I made How To Push Each Other over the course of two weeks at Open Wabi Artist Residency in September 2019. When I arrived, I didn’t know what I wanted to create, only that I wanted it to be a big fiber installation. The uncertainty freed me up to treat the process like play time, and each iteration like a world (or jungle gym to continue with the play metaphor) in and of itself. I had never worked with lighting before, and so I took the time to explore. I realized quickly that red drowned most of the other lights out, but also disoriented the viewer through the intensity of the light. I taught myself how to light things to form a gradient, or to separate individual parts of the work. I also became fascinated with the idea of different lights “fighting” each other. Once that idea took hold of me, I realized that the fabric was only a pane in which to show the light, and the light was actually the medium. This can be shown most clearly through one of the final pieces of the series, A Fire is Burning, which is comprised of 16 pieces of fabric suspended to create a column. A blue light shines directly onto it from above, and a red light lights it up from the below. The piece forms a gradient, morphing from bright red, through purple, then into pure blue. In my eyes, I see two equally matched fighters at a standoff.
Murmurations - fiber, projected video - 2020
Laundry - Reemay, wood - 2020
Can you elaborate on paper’s transformative qualities?
I am fascinated by the materiality of paper. It usually comes from some sort of organic material, such as rice, trees, or grass, and beaten into a mash. It dries in the shape the maker wants it to be; generally a flat rectangle. We place value on that paper, you can buy it in reams for cents, or singular pieces for much more than that. And then what we focus on is the messages or images put on that paper, but ignore the craftsmanship that gave us the raw material. I am reminded of the labor and care that people put into objects, and how that work is often overshadowed or forgotten. I also think about how paper can readily and easily be molded, and must be changed to become what it is. In contrast, people have a tendency to become more brittle, and more unable to change as they get older. We have a lot to learn about malleability within ourselves from the life cycle of paper.