Academic Level at Time of Creation
Date of Creation
Kate Huttunen Artist Statement
Am I black enough to question this? Am I valid, are my opinions valid?
Do I sound like that? Do I look like that?
Will my partner like me for me – not for an exotic kink?
My work is informed by personal memories and self-reflections about both black and white culture as an adopted woman of color. I often find myself contemplating how society views me and how I view society. As I grow as an artist I find myself questioning my identity in my artwork. What is gender in the black community? What is gender in the white community? How do these ideas impact how one community views the gender of another? I am interested in conceptions of gender within the black community, including the ways some roots trace back to our ancestors. Having a mixed gender identity or not having a gender at all was much more common in many African cultures before colonialism’s violent whitewashing and the heteronormative pressures embedded within it. For example, forced masculinization can have an effect on how black women identify as nonbinary. While being nonbinary in the black community, it is common to keep the title ‘black woman or black man’ alongside as ‘blackness’ is something you can’t get away from. I believe it is an important topic to discuss in my art as it's a part of my life.
All of my work is a form of self-reflection on these personal questions and experiences as they are influenced by the outside world. Addressing these themes in my artwork is a coping mechanism and a diary where I can release my energy onto the canvas. My paintings use surreal imagery and convey loss, yearning, and confusion. I combine different textures with paint. Thick markmaking clashes with smoother, thinner passages as if two different worlds are coming together and trying to find unity in all the chaos. A recurring theme of sunflowers can also be seen in many works. The sunflowers are a nod to Disney and other animation corporations whom have used blackface as a joke usually in the form of sunflowers/exploded makeup and the censored character Sunflower in Disney’s Fantasia. Sunflowers hanging are also a nod to lynchings that still happen but in different forms in the United States.
Some of my influences include Rashid Johnson, Mickalene Thomas, and Yinka Shonibare. Yinka Shonibare influences my use of texture and color, light and shadow, and composition planning. Rashid Johnson for the unapologetic blackness and confrontation he brings with his work. Mickalene Thomas influences the lgbt themes and discussion in my work as well as how I see and discover myself. I hope to communicate my thoughts, stories, and struggles through my artwork so people like me know that it’s okay to feel lost in a world that tries to confine you to one group. My work starts a conversation with those who can relate to these struggles in an effort to build community.
Danielle Mužina, Mike Martin
A brief description of this show is a reflection, on how you view your life and emotions in your headspace. I want the space to feel as if the viewer has been invited to a party they weren’t actually supposed to go to. I’d have the room look as if you walked into a party in the process of being taken down or being stuck in the process of being put up. My work focuses a lot on the black experience but it’s the point of view from a black person raised in a white household. It feels very much like you’re given tools for the wrong project and you need to figure out how to use them, the party setup is unfinished. Gender curiosity and different forms of nostalgia are also explored. I want to fill the space with bright colors but fearing it’ll take away from the work itself may be pastels would suit it better or just black. I do want to balance a cheerful aesthetic with not so cheerful undertones.
When thinking about titles for the exhibition I’ve been thinking of how someone would describe their mind or how they’d envision it. I think FunHouse has the best ring? It implies an already familiar environment while giving a false sense of security which I like to have reflected in my own artwork. For some examples of what would be placed upon the main wall, Pincushion which is the only semi 3d work in the center is about internalized traumas. The two sister paintings I call the twins, Picnic and February First which are about censorship and brutality, they both reflect each other while dismissing each other like a conversation and an argument. An example of what would be on the left-hand side, the smaller wall when facing the main wall is a series of 8 smaller paintings focused on shared nostalgia and personifications of safe spaces called Summer Portraits.
Yearly Harvest, Oil on canvas, 10”x8”, 2022
All photos taken by me
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.
Huttunen, Kathryn and Huttunen, Kathryn Rebekka, "FunHouse" (2022). B.A./B.S. Practicum Group Exhibit (ART 499). 54.