Turbulent Flow: Kristina King in the Studio

June 21, 2019 by

Kristina King’s work is dark in tone and feel. From branches wrapped in black yarn to fragile paper sculptures and large sheets of textural handmade paper, King uncovers the beauty within decay, fragility, and turbulence.

Primarily using cotton fiber and abaca, King’s two-dimensional work has sculptural qualities–uneven edges, layers of pigmented pulp, and raised shapes cast from scraps of plexiglass add depth and movement. Organic patterns emerge and blend in a grayscale palette, evoking celestial visions or grainy geographic satellite photos. King explains, “I like that paper is a strong material, yet it can be riddled with holes. I embrace the imperfections.” Part of King’s process is turning these impurities into central features of the work, creating tension within the piece.

Initially known for her representational drawings using charcoal and pastel, making paper brought out new artistic possibilities for King. “With paper, I no longer became interested in representing images exactly as I saw them. Instead I focused more on what paper could do to the image. I started embedding imagery directly into the paper using watermarks or dissolvable interfacing and noted how the paper changed the image.”

King’s work is large scale, taking up the better part of a wall or, as with her most recent installation Foreboding, two stories. Even as a child King knew she wanted to work big, “when I was two years old [my mother] gave me a pad of paper and markers and left the room for a second. When she returned, I had drawn all over the white kitchen door because I thought the sheet of paper was too small.” The scale of her work combined with exhibiting in unexpected places, like stairwells and hallways of stately buildings, creates a strong presence: “I do believe that architecture has a direct influence on my work.” she says, “I like taking something fragile looking and inserting it into these spaces.”

During her Studio Workspace Residency at Women’s Studio Workshop, King continued to work with abaca to cast multiple abstract forms, “I also wanted to open myself up for experimentation,” she explains, “shortly into my residency, I pivoted and started making high shrinkage pieces and proceeded to dye them. The way the dye reacted with Abaca turned out to be a beautiful, almost indigo blue—which is the first time color has entered my work in a while.”

An additional project grew out of this residency for King. Growing up around parts of Upstate New York, King took the opportunity to revisit one of her childhood homes only to discover it had been torn down. This prompted King to incorporate imagery of her childhood houses into her work, “I started embroidering images of my homes into water-soluble interfaces that, when embedded in wet sheets, dissolve and leave only a trace.” What remains is a memory.

Looking ahead, King plans to continue her work started at WSW for an installation she’s calling Blueprint, and having been awarded the Artist Award in Works on Paper from the Maryland State Arts Council, she will be traveling to Japan to harvest Mitsuma in January of 2020.


Kristina King (b. 1991) is a Washington, D.C.-based multi-disciplinary artist. Kristina received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Denison University in 2014. Kristina’s work has been reviewed in BmoreArt and The Washington Post, and has shown at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (Hyattsville, MD), Alleghany Arts Council (Cumberland, MD), Willow Street Gallery (Washington, D.C.), among others. Kristina served as Gallery Manager and Papermaking Associate at Pyramid Atlantic from 2014 to 2017. Kristina is currently the Gallery Director at Georgetown Frame Shoppe and has a studio at DC Art Studios in Washington, D.C., where she is also Secretary to the Board of Directors. Her new work utilizes handmade paper as a means of exploring turbulence, fragility, and decay.