Katharine Guzman

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Exchanges with Katharine Guzman:

1. Katharine, please tells us where you’re from and how it informs your art practice?

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, I’ve lived here my whole life until I was 18, when I left for school in Boston. Being from Miami allowed me to be close to my culture despite not being raised in my parents home country. My mom is from Nicaragua and my dad is from Colombia and living in Miami definitely exposed me to not only both cultures, but to various other cultures in my Latino community. I take a lot of pride in being Latina, and in being a first-generation Latino-American, and this reflects a lot in my work. The Latino diaspora is varying and so vast, it’s mesmerizing to me to be from Miami and have the opportunity to witness so many vivid and bright cultures congregated in the area I call home. I like to use a lot of concepts, imagery, and symbolism in my work that connect directly to my culture. 

2. Walk me through your painting process, I see that you start with a narrative, how does this initial narrative develop and where does it originate from?

Usually the narrative begins with my own personal experiences, and through wanting to make it a universal image. Sometimes I am inspired by other artists, or simply just music. But mainly, I want to tell a story with my work, and once I have decided on the story I begin to think of symbols and images that correlate with that story, for me almost everything that is put on canvas is deliberate so the research process of the symbol and images is important. Next, I just craft a cohesive image with the research I gathered and paint it on. 

3. How do you source through your images, meaning how do you know when the image you are painting fits with your original narrative?

I usually have an image in my head of what I want the piece to look like before I even set paint to canvas. I like to be meticulous and purposeful with my work, everything has meaning. So with the images used in any given piece, there is usually a long process of finding the perfect images, symbols, and ideas I want to convey. This comes with lots of research on my end, making sure everything from color to pose feels authentic to the story. I know that the image on canvas fits with the original narrative when I can proudly say what I am physically looking at matches the plan in my head.

4. Do you take photographs of your subject matter? Also, do you incorporate found images in your work, if you do what difference does it have with your own?

I do take photos of my subject matter if possible. I try to retain the control of how I want things placed, or what lighting I want. But sometimes I want to incorporate an image that I cant actually capture on my own so this is when I outsource on the internet. 

5. What role does your family play in your creativity? In your painting process, The Sum of My Parts, family is part of your identity, please share with us how so?

My family plays a crucial role in my creativity in that they have always been my number one supporters. They allowed me to explore my curiosity in art, and when I discovered it it’s something I truly loved to do, they supported me in my choice to pursue it. The Sum of My Parts is almost like a love letter to my family and to the fact that they play a big part in who I am today. People always ask what contributed to your identity as an individual, and my love for my family plays a huge part in my identity. They shaped the person I am today, both in seeing the good things I wanted to retain in my life, as well as some not too great things that I choose to leave behind.

6. Other than embroidery being laborious, what are some other ideas or techniques you discovered taking this process as your own? Have you considered incorporating embroidery with paint? If so, what would that bring up in terms of your identity or perhaps art?

A lot of what I learned with embroidering came in the form of connecting ‘craft’ work with fine art. I have always been wary of the elitism in the art world as it is a place where historically white, cis, men held most of the reverence or fame. The work of artists that are women had for years been looked as less than, always overshadowed by the work of men. Textile work is historically a woman’s art-form, and its connection to femininity and womanhood automatically bumped textile work down from fine art, but in reality, it is fine art. Embroidery work is tedious, extremely detailed, and beautiful. I have considered incorporating embroidery with paint and will probably experiment with that sometime soon. In terms of my identity, embroidery makes me  feel connected to centuries of women before me in cultures throughout the world.

7. Please share with me what artists, art inspires you and why? 

Some of my favorite artist recently are Vincent Valdez and Amalia Mesa-Baines. Valez works mainly in oil paint, creating these beautifully detailed and rendered images that mainly focus on the human figure. The theme in his work revolves a lot around his identity as a Mexican-American in the U.S and the various parts of his culture. Mesa-Baines is a professor and practicing artist who focuses on installation work with alters, or offerings. She creates these vivid, lush, and full displays that truly wow viewers. Her work is so interesting to me because it also relates back to her identity as a Chicana by using the ofrenda as a medium, and creates beautiful and meaningful displays. I love artists that have stories and detail in their work.

8. What will be your ideal painting? Describe what you lately have been interested in? It seems like your paintings always depict the human figure, is their a reason why you do that? How do you think of the human figure as it relates to the narratives you create?

I don’t really think I have an ideal painting. But I suppose it would just be one that captures my intentions exactly as I wanted it to. I do use the human body a lot because I feel like my stories, or the stories I want to tell always involve people. And more specifically they involve me, which is why most of my work is self-portraits and using my own face and body as the reference. The human figure in my work mainly aims to connect the viewers with what they are looking at. Seeing a human figure draws people in because it is an image they know and are comfortable with.  

9. Last but not least, what are you seeking to accomplish with your art work? Is it something you share with others so they understand you, or are you more or less developing techniques?

I want to be able to look at my work and see that it is exactly the right feelings/story I want to put on canvas in order to connect with others that see the piece . I enjoy the idea of people coming together to enjoy and relate to my work, and I also enjoy the idea of people trying to figure out the meaning behind it and even creating their own.

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