Artists on Coping: Kathryn Hart

During the coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

A dirty old room

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Kathryn Hart, Installation view of The Other Voice in Sala Coll Alas, 2020, Gandia, Spain , Foreground: Site-specific installation, Self Possessed, 2020, 148x238x160 inches

Kathryn Hart’s artworks are underpinned in Humanism and Feminism. She expands works beyond their physicality using shadow, reflection, light, dimension, gesture, line and space.  Her spatial installations respond to the unique architecture of their environments. Recent solo shows include Sala d’Exposicions Coll Alas de Gandia (SP); European Cultural Centre, a 58th Venice Biennale event; School of Visual Arts (NYC); Politechnika Krakowska; Howland Cultural Center (NY); Galerie SD Szucha 8 (Warsaw); Andre Zarre Gallery, (NYC); and ArtHaus (Denver).  Select group venues include Ateneo de Madrid, Chelsea Art Museum (NYC), Oceanside MOA (CA), Archeological Museum, Gandia, and So. Nevada MFA (Las Vegas). Recent features are The September Issues Magazine,   Amparo Zacares Publications, Estetica Pedagogica, Gallery&Studio Arts Journal,  Diversions LA.  Public TV links USA and in Spain.

AS: How are you coping?

KH: I arrived in Spain for final events of my two month show on the very day Trump announced that a travel ban would go into effect in two days. I scrambled to return home to meet the deadline. The airlines told me to be prepared for a two week quarantine on a military base at my port of entry, which was not my home city. I was worried and concerned. I am relieved I avoided that situation, am now home and that my husband is not stressed about me. Of course, I am in self quarantine. This past week, I have been resting from the impact of travel, keeping in close contact with my friends and family by phone, email and text, trying to catch up on necessary computer work and petting my kitties. I am so grateful to be home with my husband is home; we are together 24/7. The news has become exhausting, but I feel like I must keep up, that it is almost disrespectful to those affected to not witness the numbers ticking up. My stepson who lives several states away has virus and my husband and I are extremely concerned. Fortunately, he is healthy and is improving, but this is evidence that this virus can impact anyone.

I live next to the National Forest, so I have the benefit of long walks in nature without risking anyone else. The fresh air, sound of birds and the peace is calming and helps clear my head. I have an exercise bike at home, so I ride long and hard to release endorphins. These walks and rides give me a respite from the underlying anxiety of the unknown. I need to stay as healthy as I can in case I am needed, for something, for anyone. I have work in progress waiting for me in the studio, but I have felt rather flat this past week, probably from jet lag and worry. I will return to my studio in a day or two. I admit I have binged on some TV series that I would not normally take the time to enjoy. My house has benefited from some OCD cleaning.

A picture containing indoor, small, sitting, room

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Kathryn Hart, Installation view of The Other Voice in Sala Coll Alas, 2020, Gandia, Spain , CODA, 2020, 150x120x120 inches with shadows, Photo courtesy of Jordi Estevan

AS: Has your routine changed?

KH: I stay at least 6 feet away from my husband and will do so for the full two-week period. He is in the vulnerable category and I obsess that I might give the virus to him. We both have medical backgrounds so know the proper procedures to follow, but not hugging or touching my husband feels robotic. We talk all the time anyway, so that has not changed. But the importance of a physical connection is profound. I am fortunate my studio is next to my house and that I can create without being in contact with other people. I usually work in isolation, so my routine in that manner has not changed. Since my studio is remote and private, my social time with other artists and friends is important. That direct face time has ended for the foreseeable future. My day is less crammed with activities and life feels slower. I seem to be sleeping more than usual.

A large room

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Kathryn Hart, Installation view of The Other Voice in Sala Coll Alas, 2020, Gandia, Spain , Installation space ~2700 sq. ft., Photo courtesy of Fernando Rincon

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

KH: I feel helpless to assist anyone because I am one of the people to be avoided, at least for now. When I was in Gandia (SP) for that brief day, they were already practicing social distancing. It felt lonely and very strange not to hug a friend I had not seen in a month. I am more acutely aware of the importance of human touch. I support the distancing mandate 100% but it reminds me how vital social networks are for emotional and mental health. I like to talk to my friends rather than text, and much prefer to see them face to face. There is an intangible energy of humans coming together. That component is missing right now for public health reasons. Digital communication is beneficial, but if that is all one has, it can be isolating. My heart goes out to those who live alone, the elderly and the vulnerable. My show in Spain was one large site-specific installation and included several community and collaborative events. Going into isolation after that energy, excitement, and wonderful community engagement seems like smashing into a brick wall at full speed. However, I am one of the lucky ones. I have my loving husband, a good place to live and work, my kitties, food, medicine, and a safe way to access the outdoors. I am keenly aware of the importance of community.

Deep access to my creativity is elusive at the moment. I am both anxious and hopeful. I am distracted and feel like I am ‘on the surface.’ But I know I need to just get to the studio. The work I have in progress will continue as it coincides with these feelings of both connection and isolation.

A picture containing indoor, sitting, small, dog

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Kathryn Hart, Installation view of The Other Voice in Sala Coll Alas, 2020, Gandia, Spain , New Dawn Sculptures, (9), 8x9x5.25 feet sculpture platform, 2018-2019, Photo courtesy of Jordi Estevan

AS: What matters most right now?

KH: I am most focused right now on the health of everyone – both my loved ones and those I have never met. I feel we are all in this together and need to look out for one another. We are connected globally, and this virus is proving it. What matters most right now is stopping its rampant spread. If that requires home quarantine, then so be it. Supporting and creating community will be a lifeline.

A picture containing indoor, building, white, kitchen

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Kathryn Hart, Installation view of The Other Voice in Sala Coll Alas, 2020, Gandia, Spain , Site-specific installation, Self Possessed, 148x238x160 inches total and detail

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

KH: We will get through this, but it is already a catastrophe for so many. I hope this situation will not last as long as some are predicting, but it might. There are so many possible ramifications on a societal, economic and global level. I don’t think anyone can foresee what will happen and for what length of time. What we do know now is that people should stay home. Period. My most immediate wish is that all will be responsible and abide by this mandate for the greater good. There are so many deaths and confirmed cases which could have been avoided. I am stunned that some people are not taking this pandemic seriously and risking others.

Farther out, I wonder about how much importance our government will place on ensuring art and culture is preserved and supported. Germany, for example, has already relegated 120 million euros to support culture and has deemed it “an essential good.” Will our country feel the same or continue its focus on big business? The financial impact of this situation on everyone who is self-employed and on small businesses is huge.

Specifically pertaining to the arts, I think that software platforms for virtual exhibitions will improve and become the norm, not an exception. Of course, this is not the same experience as physically being in the venue, but technology can make it more similar than it is now. Isn’t this the same technology current used in virtual games? For those who cannot attend an exhibition in person, this is a way to allow more people access.

A close up of a nest

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Kathryn Hart, Studio Shot, works in progress, foreground and background, 2020