Katherine Levin-Lau

Katherine Levin-Lau


Website: http://katherinelevinlau.com

   San Jose, CA

I am a perpetual student of nature. My explorations have taken me to physical places such as tide pools, gardens and forests and my learning broadened by museums and books. I am filled with wonder at the beautiful, horrific, bizarre and puzzling intricacies of the natural world. I feel deeply the connection between all living things.

In 1992, I saw my first curiosity cabinet at the Royal Palace in Prague. These cabinets, sometimes called “wonderkammen”, gained popularity with a new breed of collectors during the Renaissance and later became precursors of our modern museums. Originally the hobby of the social elite: these private collections became more publicaly attainable when men like P.T. Barnum realized their monetary potential and purchased, displayed and scattered these collections for their own gain. It was wonderful to see the Prague collection, intact and still in all it’s chaotic glory. A large étagère dominated the room with curved glass doors and shelves crammed to the top with objects. The collection was jumbled with no clear order: stuffed birds, statues,coral, an animal’s paw, dried flower specimens, a shrunken head, turtle shells, a dried puffer fish piled one on top of the other, vying for attention.

My current body of work reflects the impact of this visit to Prague. I have collected images from nature and anthropology and use these as elements in my personal iconography, juxtaposing images of contrasting origins in homage to the Prague cabinet’s Jumbled contents.

Recently I have been working on a series combining skeletal remains, seeds and butterflies. These images reflect not only the cycle of life but also their interconnection.

All the images are hand drawn on a zinc plate using a reductive process. The prints have multiple runs through the press. The original drawings have a monochromatic base and color is overlaid using viscosity techniques. Often the ghost of the image is used to begin the next print.


What did the Fellowship or Laureate mean to you at the time you received it?

It allowed me to cut back on work and focus on studio time and exhibition preparation at a key time in my career. The grant also served as a validation and encouragement from my community.

What do you do now? Has your art evolved or changed?

I work in the studio full time. The last 8 years I have focused on printmaking - monotypes primarily the focus. I am now working on a series of works based loosely on curiosity cabinets, utilizing my collections of images from anthropology and natural history.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an emerging artist?

Don't get distracted - make the work. It's too easy to get sidetracked

Briefly, how would you describe the state of the arts locally, as well as national and beyond?

As the recession is waning (a bleak time for artists), I see renewed excitement for the arts in San Jose and world wide. Locally we now have an incredible venue called the art party; SJ Institute of Contemporary Art continues to support dynamic Art; and the second San Jose Art Fair is about to open. Many new galleries are popping up started by young artists and are presenting dynamic shows of young and established artists. Globally, gallery sales have picked up also. There's hope out there.