left to right: "Listening" (magazine reproduction of painting by unknown artist) , 13 x 12.25", "A Good Arrangement" (magazine reproduction of drawing by Andrea Dezso), 12 x 12", "Split (Stratum)" (reproduction of drawing by Andrea Dezso), 12.5 x 12.5", "Silver streak", 8 x 8", "Mending the Rift", 10 x 10", "Untitled (golden strands), 10 x 10in, "Sheol"(art reproductions from Harper's Magazine), 12 x 13", "Keep your distance", 13.25 x 12.5", "Roots" (photos by unknown artist), 12 x 12", "Love & Sunshine (Adolescence) with magazine reproduction of paintings by unknown artist, 12 x 12", "The Politics of War" (art reproductions from Harper's Magazine), 12 x 13".  All works are tissue paper, thread, and collage on board, © 2015 kristen m. watson art studio, llc.

On the surface of the {stratum} series I’m exploring the concept of transparency by smudging, tearing, and scraping away multiple layers of tissue papers to essentially “paint” with paper. Unlike paint, the preceding layers of tissue are almost impossible to hide. The history beneath the final piece is nearly always visible, and the more the tissue is scraped, the messier things become.  

The creation of strata (layers), and being unable to erase the past speak symbolically to how our decisions master us- the outcomes never able to be completely obliterated. Each piece has morphed into a visual symbol of different points in my life- times of manic joy, ecstasy, and attachment. Times of intense suffering, alienation, anger, and selfishness. I see destruction and brazen foolishness, but I also see mending and vulnerability that follows reaching out. And within each piece I sense areas of peace, growth, humility, gratitude, and deep connection.

The pieces also symbolized how we are changed by the connections we forge with people and place. We become enmeshed with them, for better or worse, our identity becoming a layered amalgam of our experiences. 

The question is: are the layers of our identity already within us and just emerging as we connect and experience life? Or are they perpetually created and destroyed? Even more important: can we, should we, and how do we, shed unwanted and unattractive layers from ourselves?

A little more…

Two main questions framed this series of work when I began it. First, I wondered, "How can I "paint" and "draw" with tissue paper?" By layering and then smudging, tearing, and scraping away the papers, and creating a subtle depth, I learned that, unlike paint, one can never really obliterate a layer in tissue paper collage. The 'history' beneath the final piece is almost always visible. The more I scraped, the messier things became. Symbolically, the creation of strata (layers), and being unable to erase the past has great interest to me as it relates to how our decisions in life master us-the outcomes never able to be completely obliterated.

Second, I explored was what it means to borrow another artists's work and make it my own. There is a long-standing tradition in visual art of appropriation, and outright copying of the great masters.  By collaging magazine reproductions of art, and then physically and contextually altering them to work for my composition, I asked the question, "when does another's art no longer belong to them, but become mine? Is it always a collaboration?" In the digital age, "borrowing" in music and art is constant, so the question provokes a lot of closely held opinions.

 

Press for The {Stratum} Series 

The Vermont Arts Council featured Mending the Rift  on the cover of their 2016 Annual Report, which also included an article about how the Council has supported my art practice and business. Check out the publication in print or online here

Mending the Rift has been sold, but I invite you to purchase an archival print reproduction. You can also view the other pieces in the [stratum] collection for sale here.