Cultivating Haze: Katie Ford in the StudioJuly 6, 2018 by C. R. Cooper
Katie Ford spent six weeks in the intaglio studio at Women’s Studio Workshop trying to thin the exuberance of color. She didn’t rid color of its energy or cause its diminishment, but Ford urged color to a deeper mysterious place. As she worked in monoprint, layers of ink were rolled out and built back up in unique combinations onto the fronts and backs of sheets of Japanese paper. The effect is a kind of “visual haze” made by colors and shapes printed and arranged on top of one another, piled and swirling like a dream. Through this thinning, the colors can reach toward their potential and begin to glow together.
To regard Ford’s colors as “thin” isn’t an attempt to exclude brightness, cheeriness, or charm. A lot of Ford’s work is alive with these things which is part of what makes it so enticing. Gestural marks, hazy stripes, and patterns mingle with ghostly shapes that gently suggest form. The colors are subdued but complex—their intimacy enhances each other’s affect.
I stepped deep into an intimate sensory memory through looking. This is the effect of Ford’s prints, and the result of her recent move back to work on paper after a period of focus on installation and fabric. The print on the right in the image above feels to me like late afternoon sunlight streaming through the curtains of my childhood home. The pink orb in the background references the shape of the sun and the deep yellow overlay intensifies its heat. The transparent gestural marks that build in the fore and middle ground disperse and diffuse the color like curtains would diffuse the light of the sun. I can almost feel the texture of the fabric curtains, almost feel my face against the soft cream couch as I lay below them.
An interest of Ford’s is the emotional charge that exists between humans sharing space that we all detect but that is very hard to describe. A fabric assemblage work titled When I Think of Us I Think of This attempts to describe these feelings. An extended garment is shared between two bodies and activated by those bodies as they move through the world. This garment makes visible that charged connection.
If the emotional charge between individuals can be transferred to an object, fabric seems the most likely. So intimate and ubiquitous it is that it constitutes the sheets we sleep on every night and the apron passed from our grandmother and the kitchen towels we touch and utilize every day. Fabric is human. Fabric is emotional.
Ford: “By using fabric there’s a sort of implied intimacy and domesticity and with used fabrics, there is history built into the fabric itself.” The history comes from the evidence of its use, like color bleached by the sun, tears, rips, and spots rubbed thin. This evidence attracts Ford: “Aesthetically, it’s a bit more worn-in, doesn’t have that shiny new [feeling]. When I buy fabric at the store there’s something about how saturated and how solid it is that isn’t as interesting to me.” What’s missing from that fresh new fabric is the translation of memory.
Ford is trying to wear in color in much the same way in her monoprints. She’s looking to find “the emotional power and the tonal power of color in a way that is really removed from imagery.” How better to achieve that aim than through tactile sensory memory translated to the page. Here, the reliance on imagery to make meaning disappears. The artist is free to float off into pure communication.
A selection of prints from Ford’s new series, Radiant Network, will be on view from July 18th until August 15th at Drop Forge and Tool, located at 442 Warren Street in Hudson, NY. Opening reception July 18, 5:30-8pm; details at www.dropforgeandtool.com or contact [email protected] f
Katie Ford is a mixed media and textile artist currently based in Catskill, NY. Her recent work focuses on the construction and reflection of emotional landscapes through the use of color and accumulation. Ford has shown her work nationally and has been an artist-in-residence at the Icelandic Textile Center, Elsewhere (Greensboro, NC), Cabin Time (Santa, ID), Have Company (Grand Rapids, MI), the Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project (Kansas City, MO), and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA). She originally came to the Women’s Studio Workshop in 2010 as a studio intern after receiving her BFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis. Returning as a Legacy Studio Resident, she has spent her time in the intaglio studio creating a new body of monoprints utilizing transparency, vivid color, and visual haze.