Since January I have been renting a space at Okay Mountain Studios in East Austin. I feel both lucky and excited that I get to share a building with some of the most creative people in Austin. I am so excited about all of my new neighbors that once a month or so I will be spotlighting one of them so that I can share with you how truly awesome they are.
One of my new neighbors is the very talented Katy Horan. I first saw her work at a group show we were both in and I immediately fell in love with it. Her work gives me goosebumps both from how intricate and precise her detail is and because her subjects are just plain creepy. Katy is busy getting ready for her show at Domy here in Austin but was kind enough to answer some questions.
You have amazingly creepy yet fantastically beautiful characters and settings. How do they come to be?
I have always been drawn to that combination of creepy beautiful, even as a kid….especially as a kid. At this point, it’s an aesthetic that I am just really comfortable and familiar with. It’s hard to really say where my images come directly from though. It’s like all the characters and images that I have found interesting or appealing over time have gotten stuck in the back of my mind and melted together….so my characters sort of emerge from the influence stew that’s brewing in my subconscious.
I LOVE your use of drab and dark colors. What kinds of responses have you gotten from people about the colors, and moods set by them, in your pieces?
The response has generally been positive. I am very particular about how I mute my colors and the role they play in the images, so I hope that they have the effect I am going for.
Is there much planning with your pieces or does your process stay pretty loose? Like, is there room for happy accidents or are they all horrible mistakes?
I am always trying to loosen myself up, worry less about the outcome of the piece and enjoy the process more. My latest pieces were an attempt at abstraction and improvisation, so there is definitely more room for accidents now as opposed to the more literal work I was doing a year or so ago. All of my pieces begin as a particular idea though, and while some end with the same idea, some turn into something else over time. I always leave room for improvisation in the details though. That way, I stay interested.
What is your favorite thing to draw?
If I was being totally honest, I would have to say clothes! I don’t draw for fun much any more. Everything I do these days is in the service of a piece I am doing (not that that’s not fun for me…it totally is!). If I were to sit down and just draw whatever I wanted, it would totally be pretty ladies in pretty dresses. I have always been into that. I actually wanted to be a costume designer when I was younger and would spend a lot of time drawing and making watercolors of intricate period costumes. I think that shows in my current work. My characters are essentially an excuse to break down the elements of women’s historical dress.
I love your dog. Has he ever made it into a piece?
Yup, he’s pretty awesome! He doesn’t show up in the work though…not much of my actual reality does. I am an escapist and use my work to indulge my need for fantasy.
What is your research process like? I noticed a lot of images of medieval and victorian ladies and dresses on your studio wall. You capture the complexity of the dresses and forms of that time very well. What else inspires you?
There is a lot of stuff that I dig. Folklore, history, movies, music, kids books, photography etc… A lot of times it will be a random character in a movie or a line in a song that will spark an interest in a new subject matter, such as witchcraft or the civil war. A perfect example is this one character in the movie “Cold Mountain”. At one point Jude law is taken in by an old woman living alone in the woods with goats, growing herbs and wearing pelts. There was something about this character that ignited something in my brain. I fell in love with the idea of the staunch survivalist woman living in harmony with the woods. I ended up creating many characters based on her in particular. I also like to spend time at the public library looking through books and filling my brain with imagery and ideas. It all gets thrown into that stew I talked about before. Sometimes something I read or saw will come out directly (like the character in “cold Mountain”) or give me a general direction for the future. I’d say the opportunity to research any subject that interests me is one of the best things about doing what I do.
How has getting work ready for the show at Domy been different than previous shows?
I had a lot more time for this one, which has been completely amazing! For a long time, it was a constant hustle to get shows and then make work for them because I always overbooked. When the Economy turned, it was harder to get shows, which was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to step back and focus on my process, while giving me the time I needed to push my work forward. I have never been more excited for a show! I ususally feel that I had to rush my work in the end and compromise it’s quality. The work for Domy has been done for a while now, so I am able to take my time with the final touches and just be excited about it, rather than stressed.
I hardly ever see you in your studio in the evening. Are you more productive earlier in the day?
Very much. The earlier I get there, the more productive I will be that day. I need to build up momentum and the later it gets, the less time I have to do that.
Favorite place to eat in Austin?
Right now it would have to be Sunday Brunch at Olivia. I am a big fan of breakfast and Olivia does it right. I can’t afford to do it all the time, but it is always a great experience when I get to go!
You work at a pretty awesome place, can you tell me about it?
I work at the most magical antique store on the planet called Uncommon Objects. I work with a group of wonderful people who simply love old, beautiful things like I do. It is a family, and I am really grateful to be a part of it and to spend my time surrounded by the incredible relics of the past. It is a huge inspiration for me.
You recently moved from Brooklyn, How does the art scene here in Austin compare to that of Brooklyn? What are your thoughts in general about the art scene in Austin?
I feel pretty new, so I am still just feeling it out. Austin is definitely a healthier environment for me to make art in. In Brooklyn, so much had to do with who you knew (or who you partied with). There was definitely an astounding amount of talent there, as well as great people who aren’t into competing, but it always felt like it was about so much more than the work itself. It has been so easy to meet like minded, supportive people here who are genuinely interested in creating an artistic community. That felt hard to come by in Brooklyn. I am still trying to determine my overall feel about the art scene here and what it might need to move forward, but I know that there are a lot of motivated people really investing their time and passion into this community’s future and that is what really matters.
Who are you wearing?
Coffee or tea?
Usually Coffee, but sometimes I just need a cup of tea.
We’ll see. I am waiting to hear from the Grad Schools I applied to. Those decisions will determine my next move, so for now I am just finishing up stuff for Domy and hanging out. It feels pretty great not to be worrying about what comes next.
Katy’s show Lady Monsters will be on exhibit March 20th through April 22nd at Domy in Austin.