May 7 – June 30, 2016
Reception for the artists: May 7, 2 – 4pm
Both Kathy Gore Fuss and Amy Huddleston work from direct observation, but they use this traditional tool very differently. One would never confuse their two bodies of work.
Four years ago Kathy Gore Fuss began spending much of her painting time out in the forests around her Olympia home rather than in the studio. She was curious how working from direct observation would change her painting. It has sharpened her eye and guided her hand as well as deepened and expanded her narrative vision of the forest. This is perhaps especially true in the work on view as Gore Fuss has, for the past year, filled the unique role of artist in residence at the Port of Olympia, and as such she has had access to the loading facilities and crews of Chinese and Japanese ships that dominate the shipping of lumber at West Coast ports. Her narrative begins in the forest and follows through to the loading dock. While the narrative content, explicit and implied, is there, her intent is not to document but rather to use the “Industrial Forest” as a vehicle for her ideas about painting. Gore Fuss understands that her narrative serves the painting, not the other way around. These paintings are “stand-alone works” and compelling as the story is, do not require the narrative to find meaning as works of art.
– Norman Lundin
Interview #41: Kathy Gore Fuss
1. Are you a full time artist, if not how do you support your art?
My earlier years as an artist were a juggling act between studio time and part-time employment. In the last six years, I have quit all of my fake jobs and work solely on my art.
2. When did you consider yourself an artist?
It was always my dream to be an artist. I was enormously proud of all of the artwork I produced in Elementary School. Walking home from school I was frequently hassled by some bullies who thought it great fun to rip my artwork out of my hands, toss them in puddles and jump up and down on them while laughing. Being a problem solver at an early age, I figured out that I could fold up my paintings, tuck them in my underwear and transport them home safely, much to my mother’s surprise. My first regular exhibitions were, of course, on the refrigerator.
3. What are your influences?
The Impressionists have had a huge hold on my fascination and passion with nature; Pierre Bonnard, Claude Monet, Pierre Cezanne, and Camille Pissarro. I have also looked to the women in our past who dedicated themselves to their craft; Lois Dodd, Alice Neel & Emily Carr. Some of my current heroes are right here in Seattle, Helen O’Toole and Ann Gale.
4. How big is your studio, what kind of lighting?
In 2010 I designed and became general contractor for the construction of my first official studio. The studio is 24 X 32 feet with a 12 foot covered back porch which I use for messy, dust generating projects. There are three skylights that give me good north light along with several windows that offer me views of my gardens and back yard. The property is a double lot; the house is situated on one parcel and the studio is on the other. I live in Olympia, Washington which is an affordable, arts oriented family supportive community 65 miles south of Seattle. This is the first studio I have had that is under my own supervision and it’s a complete delight to know I will work here the rest of my painting life.
5. What is a typical day in the studio like for you? Do you listen to music, radio or tv in your studio?
I was a studio artist for most of my career, working exclusively in my studio space. Ironically, just after I completed the construction of my new studio (2011), I began aggressively painting outdoors (Plein Air). Initially I thought I was intentionally avoiding my new studio space, but the transition in my painting practice shifted outdoors to be in nature. I spend extended amounts of time on site and then return to the studio to the solitude. I do listen to music in my studio. It includes opera, jazz, show tunes, world music and old classics.
6. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several?
I have worked in a wide variety of materials over the course of my career, but I have returned to my first love: drawing and painting. Oil paint is my medium for painting and graphite, charcoal and pencil are what I rely on for drawings.
7. How is your process different in the studio compared to when you are out in the landscape?
My painting practice starts with direct observation outdoors. When I select a site, I will often work there for weeks or months while developing a relationship with it. Over the course of a year I will move around to different sites, requiring me to address the questions I have about where we live. Wealth and beauty; how do they affect my relationship to nature? My studio work involves analyzing the technical challenges I started wrestling with outdoors. The state of flux, the sense of urgency I work from outdoors gets to take a back seat to a more analytical approach in the solitude of my studio space.
8. In your drawings & paintings, what does it mean for your work to succeed?
I have a vision in my head of what my painting should be. There have been times with a particular painting where it has seduced me into thinking I have solved the dilemmas, answered my questions and I have become the painter I have always hoped I would be. That’s what my artwork and I would describe as “succeeding”. Then the glow wears off; I am humbled and humiliated by my folly and I start another painting or drawing.
9. How do you understand form in relation to expression? Or, what part does expression play in your work?
My process relies heavily on the tension between direct observation and abstraction. My forms are naturalistic; some more organic, others more heavily rooted in geometry. I am most pleased with my painting when my process of abstraction utilizes intentional and reductive interpretations of an objective image. My hope is that my painting will offer enough of the essence of the site with a strong chord of my interpreting how I see it.
10. Do you have any special or unique tools, devices or process that you use in your art making?
I consider my dog as one of my most unique tools when I am working on a site outdoors. He is hard wired to his senses in a way that I aspire to be, but am not. I think he considers himself at work as much as I am when we are in the field. His awareness is acute and he sees, hears and smells things that I might be too self-absorbed to notice. He is my connection to nature.
11. What do you do outside the studio, aside from a job?
Bicycling, hiking, gardening and listening to old jazz records. I start most of my days with one long walk with my dog at a local park. I also offer a one week painting workshop once a year at my studio.