February 27, 2008
From gesture to monument: Artist Katy Stone at The Oxbow School For Ten-Day Residency
Katy Stone’s waterfall installations – some three stories tall – glisten with cascading light and color. She has created permanent, site-specific works in both her native United States and in Taiwan.
Yet calling Stone a sculptor falls short of describing her work, which ranges from delicate, hand-sized paintings to monumental commissions that take teams of assistants to install.
“I don’t really think of myself as a sculptor or a painter or a drawer. It’s kind of somewhere in between,” Stone told an attentive audience during her Oxbow School lecture at Copia on Monday night.
“Over the years I’ve worked away from the flat two-dimensional canvas,” she explained as she showed slides of her art and of its major influences, including Japanese wood-block prints, botanical drawings of trees, and energetic Pop Art by Roy Lichtenstein.
Stone, who is the Oxbow School’s first artist-in-residence for the spring term, encouraged the artists in her audience to “borrow ideas.”
“Steal from your friends,” she continued. “Look at what they’re doing."
“The idea that we’re wholly original is just not the case. It belongs to all of us.”
Stone also incorporates one of John Cage’s favorite principles in her studio: “I love using chance and improvisation,” she said. “Chance is this just incredible thing to me. It lets you get out of your own head.”
Stone often begins a piece with what she called “stream-of-consciousness drawing, in order to generate enough stuff to start making things.
“I usually do a lot of painting until I get a form of gesture that really works, and then I repeat it,” she continued.
The results can be breathtaking: A single droplet, repeated thousands of times, becomes a waterfall. A blade shape, multiplied, creates a field of grass. Dozens of small paintings, gathered together, express a different dynamic when they’re laid out in a circle than when they compose a broad band across a gallery wall.
“The pieces start to dialog with each other,” said Stone, who says her work tends to develop organically – even after a show has been installed:
“Everything changes with me all the time,” she said. “Sometimes when it’s done, it’s not even done.”
As her work emerged from the two-dimensional plane, Stone began to experiment with what has become one of her signature “materials:” shade. Cut and painted shards of acrylic, standing slightly away from the wall, recreate their shapes in interrupted light.
“Shadow can be the strongest part of the piece,” Stone said. “It intentionally completes the work.”
Still, Stone knows that although she can harness the intangible, she cannot master it: “If you stand at a certain angle the illusion falls apart and you see it’s just strands of painted plastic,” she said.
The Oxbow School lectures, which are free and open to the public, continue Monday, March 10 with photographer and filmmaker Ari Marcopoulos. Sculptor Alison Sarr will appear Monday, March 17.
Photographer Dawoud Bey presents his Oxbow lecture Monday, March 31 and, like Stone, will remain in Napa for a ten-day teaching residency at the school. The series concludes Monday, April 14 with a talk by curator and art historian Larry Rinder, Dean of the College at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
All Oxbow lectures begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Copia, 500 First Street in Napa. For more information, call (707) 255-6000.