What Is My Work About?
Through a multi-media practice, I examine seemingly insignificant relationships we have with ?stuff? and create perceptually significant moments by re-encountering these materials as art objects. I am interested in mimicking our relationships with objects as they shift from insignificant, casual and unconscious to conscious, subjective and sincere.
Many of the materials I choose to use consist of packaging, cardboard, found objects, free objects, parts of familiar objects, industrial materials, etc. In essence, from ?nothing,? ?something? happens in the process of choice, conceptualization and through processing of materials. A gentle push of the physicality of my materials as I subtly play with mass and volume, positive and negative space, or surface appearances in my pieces beckons the viewer to stick around long enough to cross a second threshold as they are guided through perceptual shifts.
I am suspicious of the significance of objects. Or rather, I am suspicious that meaning can be bound up in the materiality of an object. After working for six years at the city dump in San Francisco, I witnessed sludgy piles of partially decayed crap being scooted and scooped from point A to point B to point C. Realizing that we can so regularly part with objects and materials with peace of mind alleviated any sense of preciousness that I had related to personal property. However cynical this may begin to sound, I find that in dealing with objects and materials as an artist, I am allowed to examine these seemingly insignificant relationships we have with stuff and create perceptually significant moments by re-encountering these materials as art objects. I am interested in mimicking our relationships with objects as they shift from insignificant, casual and unconscious to conscious, subjective and sincere.
Many of the materials I choose to use consist of packaging, cardboard, found objects, free objects, parts of familiar objects, industrial materials, etc. In essence, from “nothing,” “something” happens in the process of choice, conceptualization and through processing of materials. The [kind of] relationship I aim to articulate – like the one we have with this “stuff,” is so casual that I feel a duty to employ formal devices such as using recognizable display motifs or perhaps applying a nice, neutralizing whitewash over everything. When we view a painting in a frame, a sculpture on a pedestal or a vaguely familiar object on a shelf, we have already, unconsciously, crossed the first threshold of perception. Many of my artworks make use of a pedestal, shelf or a framed tableau to initiate the viewing experience. I want to lovingly invoke the viewer into an unconscious viewing experience and then maybe leave them hanging in a more conscious state after they have engaged in a perceptual shift that questions the recognition of the objects that seemed familiar at first glance. A gentle push of the physicality of my materials as I subtly play with mass and volume, positive and negative space, or surface appearances in my pieces beckons the viewer to stick around long enough to cross a second threshold as they are guided through perceptual shifts.
While I examine the seemingly insignificant ties we have to objects, I also impress that that there are significant moments of subjectivity with all objects. As we casually pass through our day, we glimpse only part of an object or image at a time and consciously or unconsciously categorize it into its cultural or functional place. There is latency in the objects and materials I chose – as the objects and materials appear innocuous, but could manifest an inquiry into a spectrum of cultural signifiers that expound from one point. How do our own personal connections intersect with the cultural ties to the objects and images? Where exactly is the meaning located? As these meanings change and shift over time and from person to person in mutual contingency, it becomes more and more evident that the meaning is not located in the object itself. The object is also acting out the manner in which they are related to the world. The object is animated and performative in this capacity. They have the ability to confuse our subjecthood – another moment of subjectivity.
Within the space of my studio, I witness the characteristics of the objects and materials and develop a relationship with them. These objects [and art pieces] become characters within my studio world, and I learn to care about them. I often reincorporate part of an older piece into a newer piece as I am still developing my relationship with that object.
My works are very humble in appearance and in construction. As a loving nurturer, I help them stumble clumsily into the world and try so hard to give them an equal footing to their counterparts out in the art world. Like children, I see great potential in them. But I am a single mom to these art children, and it’s really hard to give them everything. I want them to stay just as they are with all their imperfections and budding personalities. I even stunt them a little because I think it’s cute. They are humble and they are perfect to me. I understand a context for the objects because I have created and developed this through the process of working with them. I like the way fingerprints look on the side of a pedestal that has already been painted or how the corrugation peaks out from a cardboard sculpture that appears to be a mock-up for a much larger, more impressive 3-D work. The scale of my work connotes children as they are no larger than I am able to physically manage on my own. The tendency towards impish scaled objects is a simultaneously a discrete suggestion to the potentiality of an object as it relates to a model, sketch or idea. I refuse to refine my works to a point of no return. I always want the pieces to have the ability to regress back to a less constructed state if they so wish.
The idea of the perceptual shift is something that I maintain formally and ideologically. If we can become comfortable with a state of constant shifting and less inclined towards the need for a static resolution, we can more honestly represent our own subjecthood.
Bessie Kunath lives and works in Los Angeles, CA
2012 MFA- University of California, Santa Barbara
2005 MA – Education- University of San Francisco
2003 BA – Visual Arts and Education (Dual Major), University of San Francisco
2003 Art Studio Coursework completed at California College of the Arts – 1999-2003
Selected Group Exhibitions
“From Dust Returns”, Ichibeicho Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, curated by Kio Griffith
“Free Normcore”, Autonomie Projects, Los Angeles, CA
“Transmissions”, DAC Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, curated by Virginia Arce and Nat George
“Mas Attack Ltd”, Studio 17, San Francisco, CA, organized by Max Presneill and Kio Griffith
“Are Friends Electric? Act I”, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Chinatown, CA
“Are Friends Electric? Act II”, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA
“Haunt”, Parlor West, Hollywood, CA, curated by Clifford Eberly
“Demolition Woman”, University Art Gallery, Chapman University, curated by Young Chung
“The Familiar Unfamiliar”, Casa Agave, Wonder Valley, CA, organized by Manual History Machines
“If Memory Serves”, University Art Gallery, UC Irvine, CA, curated by Kellie Lanham, Isabel Theselius, and Allyson Unzicker.
“The New Oceanscapes”, Art From Scrap, Santa Barbara, CA, curated by Chris Silva
Selected works for WEEKEND booth, Platform LA Art Fair, Barker Hanger, Santa Monica, CA, curated by Jay Erker and John Mills
“Odd Ghosts & Unlikely Dancers”, WEEKEND, Los Angeles, CA, curated by Michelle Carla Handel
“BOOM MFA Invitational 2012”, den Contemporary, Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, CA
“Headgear for Tony: 2012 UCSB MFA Exhibition”, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, curated by Karla Blancas
“Courbet is Better Than You”, Gallery 479, University of California, Santa Barbara, curated by Jared Flores
“I am Curious”, Left Coast Books, Santa Barbara, CA, curated by Bessie Kunath
“LAUNCH LA Presents BOOM”, Art Platform LA Art Fair, LA Mart, Los Angeles, CA, curated by Ali Subotnick
“Call for Entries 2011”, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA, curated by Kim Biel
“Chain Letter”, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, organized by Christian Cummings and Doug Harvey
“BOOM MFA Invitational 2011”, LA Mart, Los Angeles, CA
“Yummier/ Brainsickly”, Project Space Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Made in California”, City of Brea Art Gallery, Brea, CA, curated by Sinead Finnerty-Pyne
“An Exchange with Sol Lewitt”, Cabinet Magazine and MASS MoCA, New York
“Riven Rock Refracted”, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Ridley Tree Education Center, Santa Barbara, CA
“Welcome to the Thunderdome”, Gallery 479, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Junk Mail”, Soap Gallery, San Francisco, CA, curated by Andy Vogt and Sarah Smith
“Golden Gate Garden Railway Express”, Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco, CA
“Winter Solstice Exhibition”, True Silver, San Francisco, CA, curated by Heather Holt
“A Night at Findlay Hall”, Creativity Explored, San Francisco, CA
“Artist-in-Residence Program Survey Exhibition”, Recology Inc. Headquarters, San Francisco, CA
“As Above, So Below”, Photo Epicenter, San Francisco, CA, curated by Chris Fitzpatrick
“SFMOMA Staff Art Exhibition”, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Minna Street Office Building, San Francisco, CA
“Kwan Henmi Grand Opening”, Kwan Henmi Architectural Firm, San Francisco, CA, curated by Deborah Munk
“Rock.Paper.Scissors”, Untitled Gallery, Sausalito, CA, curated by Jessica Moe
“SF Recycled”, Salt Lake City Art Center, Salt Lake City, UT, curated by Jim Edwards
“Art From Recycling Returns”, Mills Building, 220 Montgomery, San Francisco, CA, curated by ArtSource San Francisco
“111 @ 111”, 111 Minna Gallery, San Francisco, CA, curated by Sache Eckes
“Conflated”, Onsix Gallery, San Francisco, CA, curated by Chris Fitzpatrick
“The Patina of Old Things”, solo show, Recology Inc. (formerly, San Francisco Recycling & Disposal Co., Artist-in-Residency Program, San Francisco, CA
“The Serenade is Dead”, Onsix Gallery, San Francisco, CA, curated by Jason McAfee
“Student Arts Showcase”, Presentation Theater, University of San Francisco, CA
“Senior Art Exhibition”, Thacher Gallery, University of San Francisco, CA, curated by Tom Lucas
Curator, “Something Within”, DAC Gallery and Exceptional Children’s Foundation, Los Angeles, CA – curated by Manual History Machines
Curator, “Are Friends Electric? Act I”, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA – curated by Manual History Machines
Curator, “Are Friends Electric? Act II”, Peggy Phelps and East Gallery, Claremont Graduate University- curated by Manual History Machines
Curator, “Familiar Unfamiliar”, Casa Agave, Wonder Valley, CA – curated by Manual History Machines
Managing Director, “BOOM MFA Invitational Exhibition 2012”, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, CA,
Curator, “I am Curious”, LeftCoast Books, Goleta, CA
Curatorial Committee Member, “BOOM MFA Invitational Exhibition 2011”, LA Mart, Los Angeles, CA
Curator, “Spatium Sets”, Gallery 479, Santa Barbara, CA
Curator, National Product Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2005-2006
Published Art Reviews
Kunath, Bessie, “New Work by Brion Nuda Rosch”, Art Practical and ArtSlant
Kunath, Bessie, “Alexander Singh at Jack Hanley”, Shotgun Review
Kunath, Bessie, “‘Misfits’, by Todd Bura”, Shotgun Review
Residencies, Grants and Awards
2014 Fellows of Contemporary Art Curator’s Lab Fellowship, 2014
2011 Selected for “Call-for-Entries” Annual Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, CA.
Grantee, “Interdisciplinary Humanities Center Visual Arts Grant”, UC Santa Barbara, CA
2009 Juried Showcase Winner, Artslant.com
2006 Student Artist-in-Residence, Recology Inc. Art Residency Program, San Francisco, CA