The Herndon Gallery is showing new work by Katherine
Kadish through the end of March. It is Kadishs first local
exhibit since the mid-1980s.
the surprise of making art
As a girl growing up in Pittsburgh, Katherine Kadish saw many womens
lives around her, but none was the sort of life she wished for herself.
I didnt want to be a housewife or have children, she
said in a recent interview. I thought books and art were important.
I wanted an exciting life.
You could say that Kadish, a widely traveled, frequently exhibited artist,
has fashioned such a life for herself. Yet memories from her childhood,
especially a sense of present constriction contrasted by future independence,
often find their way into her artwork, she said.
Theres a lot of yearning in my work, she said. Its
often about confinement versus liberation.
Those themes play themselves out in Patterns and Tracings,
Kadishs exhibit of new multimedia work currently on display at the
Herndon Gallery on the Antioch College campus. The exhibit, which opened
Feb. 14 and runs through March 27, also includes poetry by Michigan poet
Kadish, who moved to the area in 1984, hasnt shown her work locally
since the mid-1980s, although she has exhibited throughout the country
in many group and solo shows.
Kadishs latest exploration of liberation covers the north wall of
the gallery in Tracings, a group of larger-than-life deep
blue figures that seem to cavort in space. Made of light plywood, the
figures, which Kadish traced from human models, swim and dance and jump
across the large white expanse of the wall.
Across the room, viewers see human figures of a less mobile sort. Suspended
next to doorways or surrounded by dark frames, headless and limbless painted
torsos create a mystical and eerie presence. For Kadish, this work explores
human vulnerability and confinement at the same time that, ironically,
it offers her, as an artist, a new beginning. After more than 30 years
of painting and making monotypes, she recently began creating art with
found objects, in this case, doors and torsos and dressmakers dummies.
Ive always been fascinated by three-dimensional work but felt
I wasnt a sculptor, she said. Finding these torsos is
the way I entered into three dimensions.
While the torsos convey a sense of woundedness and vulnerability, Kadish
created them through a process of joy and discovery.
I love the surprise of it, she said of her creative process.
I feel that Im having more fun than ever. In the beginning
years I was so fearful, so afraid that I wasnt good enough.
Each piece of the exhibit illustrates the serendipity of Kadishs
artistic process, one that involves exploration and trial and error. Messenger
began with the found object of a child mannequin that Kadish bought in
a junk store years before she knew what to do with it. Stored in her barn,
the torso began cracking, which prompted Kadish to paint it a weathered
green, then present it against a panel painted to look like an old Italian
wall. The piece shows a genderless, ageless being who seems to come to
the modern world from an ancient past.
In Escape, Kadish began with an old door she recovered from
her barn, to which she added several layers of paint along with dressmaker
patterns, which she uses repeatedly in her figures. Shes intrigued
with patterns, she said, because they seem like a map of the body
and because they resonate with her childhood, in which her mother loved
It started out a much different thing, she said of the piece.
After she painted the door and added the patterns, Kadish said, it
didnt work. It felt too artificial. I find that things often pass
through an artificial stage, which changes if I pay enough attention.
The piece felt complete when Kadish suspended a torso, painted a deep,
bloodlike red, beside the painted door.
Serendipity also played a part in Sebastian, a piece in which
a bloodied torso in a frame, modeled after St. Sebastian, is pierced with
stick-like arrows. The torsos layered texture evolved from the unexpected
effects of paper drying on the torso, effects Kadish decided to keep.
Im interested in the play between the surface and whats
beneath, a suggestion of layers developing over time, she said.
Kadish works on six or seven pieces at a time in her studio in an old
schoolhouse in Clifton. She likes having concurrent projects because at
any given time I might have an idea for one or two, she said. I
like going back and forth.
Exploring color is a critical part of her creative process, she said.
I pay a lot of attention to the mixing of color, she said.
I need to feel excited about how the colors are relating to each
other. If I dont have an interesting relationship going on on the
palette, it wont be a good day.
Kadish has had a lot of good days since she began painting more than 30
years ago. She received an undergraduate degree in painting and design
from Carnegie Mellon University, then a masters in art history from
the University of Chicago. She taught art and lived and traveled in Europe
and Egypt, while she painted and created monotypes.
Kadish moved to Yellow Springs in 1984, after she married Robert Fogarty,
a history professor at Antioch College. Since that time, she and her husband
have continued to travel, spending time in China in the mid-1980s. While
in China, she observed expert calligraphers who influenced her monotypes,
including several works included in the Herndon exhibit.
The calligraphers worked quickly, and Kadish felt inspired by their trust
in their instinctive process.
Something resonated in me like crazy, she said. It gave
me permission to use an ability Id always had but rarely used, the
ability to draw quickly. I just needed to pluck up my nerve and try.
Kadish did pluck up her nerve, following her instincts to a new way of
creating artwork. And while the pieces in the exhibits, from abstract,
lyrical monotypes to jarring, bloodied torsos to ethereal human figures
in flight, may seem hugely different from each other, they have in common
a trust in her intuitive creative process.
In all art, theres always a balance between the cerebral part
and the intuitive part, she said. In my work its the
intuitive that takes the lead.
Katherine Kadish has had an exciting life, after all, but that life didnt
come easily. She had to first imagine a life unlike any shed seen.
I tell my students, if you turn your face in a certain direction,
things will happen, she said. Books will fly to you, things
will align themselves with that path. But you have to have the nerve to