One daily paper in the palm of my hand

It began in September 2015, when the image of a lifeless Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach was repeatedly distributed in print and digital media. It gripped me like no other image of a bombed out building or overcrowded refugee boat had done.  It put the plight of the millions of Syrian refugees front and center in my consciousness. 

Little Alan Kurdi was my wake-up call to start paying attention to the world outside of myself and my work.  (You can see the photo here.) 

Up until that day, my studio practice had been a place of refuge and solace from the all-consuming job of starting up Now + There. Creating new works for the “Sidewalk Series,” a critique of real estate development in my Boston neighborhood, is a sensual thrill for me. I get to steal bits of public property – cast off pieces of asphalt and concrete – and make luscious green and gold worlds with them. The making process is slow and seductive, like painting, but in a manageable size and format. And playing developer is a fun fantasy. 

That changed as I looked at Alan. At that point I was preparing for two career stretches, one to develop a curriculum for a 200-level course at Connecticut College, which became Shelter and Comfort, and the other, to develop a Sanctuary Series workshop for the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum’s experimental program to activate the senses, rejuvenate, and inspires. 

This is one month’s worth of Friday, Saturday and Sunday issues of the Boston Globe and New York Times. One step away from hoarding?

This is one month’s worth of Friday, Saturday and Sunday issues of the Boston Globe and New York Times. One step away from hoarding?

For the Gardner proposal, I used the opportunity to explore the proliferation of violent imagery in print and broadcast news through the co-creation of an object, a mandala with hundreds of violent images selected by participants. That workshop and another subsequent one at Babson College chapel have opened up a new direction in my practice.  I can’t throw away newspapers! 

Seriously. After the workshops, I continued reading the papers and instead of getting stuck on a horrific photo, pouring over its gory details and not being able to move on, I could see the violence and read about it. After this 14-month practice, I’ve become slightly less shocked, more desensitized. And just in time. 

With the violence manifesting in our country via vicious hate speak, the entire paper is full of viciousness. The printed word is taking on power I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Now, I’m taking in the entire paper and scrutinizing it and I feel compelled, like before, to make something with it. 

I take it in with my eyes, brain, heart and with my hands.  I cut it into hundreds of small shapes, glue them together and form something new, a sculptural object that fits in my hand. One daily paper can fit inside my hand. It seems digestible that way. It feels powerful.  It's almost like a weapon.

I’m excited about this new direction and by sharing it here, I’m giving myself the public challenge to keep it up this exploration by creating one paper accumulation a week. Help hold me accountable and let me know what you think here and on Twitter and Instagram.

More Additive than Subtractive

Profile excerpt by Leah Triplett Harrington:

In college, she studied painting. She had wanted to be a writer. Her father was a writer. But in college, she transitioned from drawing fictions on a page to painting pictures onto canvases. She was committed to painting when she took a 3D course. She labored over soapstone sculptures, carving away at the surface. “You’re more of an additive than a subtractive,” her professor said.

She is Kate Gilbert, who, after twenty years in Boston, has ricocheted through every facet of the art community here. Currently a curator and director of Now and There, the public art non-profit who brought JR’s Inside Out Project to Boston last fall, Gilbert is an artist whose studio practice includes video, installation, performance, sculpture, and persistently, painting. Her practice and curatorial work are united in Gilbert’s enduring appreciation and fascination with art’s power when placed in public. 

Read more at Big Red & Shiny

More Additive than Subtractive: Kate Gilbert by Leah Triplett Harrington was published April 26, 2016 for Big Red & Shiny online magazine.

More Additive than Subtractive: Kate Gilbert by Leah Triplett Harrington was published April 26, 2016 for Big Red & Shiny online magazine.

On lasting legacies.

On lasting legacies.

I have just returned from the Gardner Museum where, from 1 to 3pm, I was the host of the Living Room – a project based on Lee Mingwei’s original artist-in-residence project from 1999. 

It is a remarkably informal project. You show up with a few objects, put them on a table and then talk to people about the objects. But that’s the hard part, talking. Without a formal context, how does one strike up conversation in a serene space where people go to rest and get away? It’s easy on a crowded train or a doctor’s office where there’s a common injustice or suffering. Our only hardship is Whistler the singing canary whose energetic song at times gets a bit loud. There is no sign that reads, “Warning: a stranger may attempt to be intimate with you.”

I try multiple approaches.

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The Uncanny Home of Our Imagination

I'm pleased to share the Shell Jackets as part of "The Uncanny Home of Our Imagination" curated by Lisa Crossman & Julia Csekö with artists Céline Browning, Joana Traub Csekö, Julia Csekö, Amelia C. Young,  Kate Nielsen and Adams Puryear (FPOAFM Studios), Elana Adler, Jonathan Talit and Mia Cross.

March 19—April 9, 2016
opening reception: Sat. March 19, 6—9pm

Nave Gallery Annex
gallery hours: Thurs & Fri, 6-8PM; Sat & Sun, 2—6PM

"This show is a fleeting exploration of the home as concept and lived material space in which taste, anxiety, and desire take shape. Playfully using the concepts of the uncanny and the “uncanny valley” as points of reference, selected objects and their placement within a house-turned gallery are meant to call attention to the act of attaching emotions to the things that populate our inhabited domestic spaces. The home takes on a special role as site of origin and desired return – an (extra)ordinary domestic environment filled with art that may provoke empathy or aversion." –  Lisa Crossman. More information about the exhibition and events on the exhibition webpage.


Inner Chamber — a collective art making exercise at the Gardner Museum

Inner Chamber — a collective art making exercise at the Gardner Museum

I’m please to be part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s new “Sanctuary Series” with a workshop of meditation and art making that provides a unique experience within the museum’s collection and provides tools for synthesizing the barrage of mass media imagery that fills our daily lives.

“Inner Chamber”, part of the Gardner’s Sanctuary Series
Sunday, March 6, 2:30-4pm
Register in advance.

As a young child I was “diagnosed” as having an over active imagination. This was my parents way of soothing me back to sleep after a particularly realistic nightmare in which the Pink Panther stalked me while his theme song played.  This “superpower” as I now like to see it, the ability to imagine what isn’t there, is closely correlated with imagining what could happen or what is to come in the future. It is the power of imagination. And when not harnessed properly it can lead to useless worry.

It is also the power of empathy.

After learning to recognize the difference between dreams and reality I next had to content with the nagging worry about what could happen in real life – especially when it came to human suffering.

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On the Line

Those who know me know how often I'm looking down admiring cracks in the pavement and sidewalks. Museum and gallery floors too. Cracks are everywhere! They're nature's way of exerting her presence. "You can't tame me", she cries.

I love drawing cracks. I love looking for patterns within them. I love extracting the bits and pieces that are created by these fissures. And lately I've become a bit obsessed with collecting them. Chances are on any given day I have a hunk of concrete in my pocket. I live in Boston and we're in the middle of a building boom. Need I say more?

I first started making the Sidewalk Series of asphalt and concrete miniatures this summer as I was exploring my urban neighborhood's connection to nature. Or lack there of. Each time I found a chunk of asphalt on my walk I'd pick it up and imagine it as a tiny landscape. I'd ask myself what could live there, where the water source might be, and what resources could be hidden inside.

When asked to contribute to On the Line, a group exhibit with one artist from each of the ten stops on the MBTA's new Fairmount-Indigo commuter rail I knew exactly what I'd contribute. The ten new Sidewalk Series pieces in On the Line were all collected within a half-mile radius of my home. Most came from a development parcel in Chinatown where I first filmed the Alone Together Tent Dress demonstration in 2013 and where I returned in 2015 to photograph the tent for Interdependence. During the intervening years a tower with luxury lofts and affordable housing was built. The adjacent wedge of land squeezed between the road and highway ramp is still a beautiful mess of "art supplies" and the last refugee in the area for those without a home. 

One the Line
curated by Medicine Wheel Productions' Spoke Gallery and UMass Boston's Trotter Institute
February 3—April 15, 2015

Spoke Gallery
110 K Street, 2nd floor, Boston, MA 02127
Gallery hours: Wed—Fri 12—5pm and Saturdays by appointment


Sidewalk Series, 2016. Found asphalt and concrete, modeling turf and gold leaf. Click for more images including the Chinatown development parcel.

on breathing and the essentials

We breath everyday, but what connection is made when we breathe in other people's air? Since seeing these photos of "Talisman of Breath" at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in early June, the idea of swaping "breaths" has been on my mind. By containing our breath in a little inflatable origami ball that can be given away or lost, we are reminded of what is essential versus what isn't. What if all we needed was to carry a little personal spiritual token everyday?

-Audrey Hsia, studio assistant


in a tiny box I would put...

Traditional Japanese inrōs were used to carry small objects that today would be stashed in a pocket or purse. (This is the only design flaw I can find in the kimono but boy it is major.) Made up of multiple compartments, these small satchels were worn at the waist and contained things like medicine, cosmetics and identity seals.

As the owner of a pair of pants with count them, seven, pockets, I simply can't imagine paring down my essential belongings to something as small as a cell phone. Unless there's a lipstick app? 

Talisman’s of Breath” was inspired in part by the Gardner’s collection of inrōs and my fascination/disgust with having everything I need right at hand. It builds off of the Sherpa Hoods and Survivor Packs – which promise to carry everything one needs to master physiological comfort, safety, belonging/love, self-esteem and creative fulfilment – and the PA Wristlets which signify their wearer is stressed.