Kat Howard lives in Kingston, NY and makes fiber art that addresses the history of the persecution of the female body, through which, she interrogates her own identity as a survivor of violence against women. She uses abstraction, the innate language of texture, and the repulsion/attraction of touch in her 'fiber poems' to capture the fight to break free from trauma. Witch is a word she endeavors to reclaim.
As a survivor of physical and sexual violence, Kat has found healing and self-empowerment through using her work to talk about her experience, and the deeper history that ties herself, and many other women together.
Kat is fascinated how historically women worked within the constraints of the domestic space to express themselves, and how their mark making was an attempt to make the true self known; to force the female body to be seen outside of its bound, traditional context. The labor behind weaving and fiber construction is so important to her work. It is a medium of art where you can't help but be floored by the hours, the precision, and the repetition that is necessary to execute an idea: all of these things are a powerful metaphor for women's work. There's strength in this quiet, fevered language.
"I am just the messenger, my hands have not marked this history," is repeated over and over again in the historical documents Kat encounters during her investigations while conceptualizing her art. In her work, Kat tries to pause and capture the moment that occurs where society turns away from what is happening, in an attempt to hold the viewer's eye open. By using history as a lens to examine the female body, she is able to explore the charged awareness of her own body and identity as a survivor of abuse and violence.
A particular period that has consumed Kat is the history of women persecuted as witches. In the era of witch hunting, any imperfection on a woman could be used as evidence as a devil's mark, and condemn her to the fire. Men systematically persecuted women who held knowledge or power, often killing midwives and healers, destroying entire matriarchal communities. Some of her artworks compare this history to man’s obsessive control, and resulting destruction in nature through the imagery of hundreds of silk worm cocoons, thousands of knots, or precariously draped threads.
Other historical themes Kat examines in her work include: how corsets altered women's bodies, the Trail of Tears, Victorian mourning practices, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Through fiber art, Kat feels like she is able to convey the collective voice of women who have been pushed down, but rose back up again, in thousands of tiny stitches, textures, and tones. Anonymous women might have been nameless, but the echo of their voices can still be felt in to the present.
Check out her Intuitive Weaving Workshops here.
Carole P. Kunstadt
As a collagist, painter, book arts and fiber artist I often invoke a metaphysical quality of contemplation and timelessness. My works on/of paper reference artifacts, the material of antique books, music manuscripts, journals - deconstructing paper and text, and using it in metaphorical ways. My devotion to books is inspired by the ability of the written word to take the reader to other places through stories, poems, and prayers. Through the exploration and manipulation of the materials the process reveals how language can become visual through re-interpretation.
A long held thought that influences my works on/of paper is: Evidence in the tactile provides contrast of the ethereal. How do I as an artist present the spiritual and unutterable concepts while in this physical plane.
My work is intimate in scale and sentiment, requiring the viewer to be sensitive and contemplative. I like the notion of one having to slow down in order to fully appreciate the work. The detail draws the eye close.
A book is not only the way in which text is presented but it is a container. An irreplaceable aspect of the book is that books absorb histories. Paradoxically the limitations of the form/codex presents us with important conversations, intimacies and the possibility of expansive experiences. Perhaps the most widely known book worldwide is the Bible. Despite our basic familiarity and the positive or negative response one may have had previously to it or to aspects of it, my work utilizing and transforming the Bible as well as the Psalms alters one’s experience of these classic texts. Visually there is a consistent and measured cadence to a page of psalms which is echoed in the repetitive weaving or restructuring of the paper: pages are cut in strips and woven creating an altered dense surface. The stitching emphasizes the repetition of the lines of text - suggestive of the passage of time, alluding to the age and the history contained within.
The continuous repetitive action of sewing, knotting and weaving is similar to reciting, singing, and reading: implying that through the repetition of a task or ritual one has the possibility to transcend the mundane. The use of gold leaf elevates and heightens the rich textural qualities and alludes to the enticing presentation of illuminated texts historically. Explored and displayed in this visual context, the alteration of the papers’ linear, tactile, and facile nature emphasizes transformation, while the possibility of revelation is playfully realized.
The intended use, as well as the nature of a psalm as spiritual repository, both imply a tradition of careful devotion and pious reverence. This process of interaction is played out visually in the piece, mimicking the internal experience. Reinventing the books, completely free of theological or political filters, I am not only exploring their physical integrity but also creating new hybrid forms which reflect memory, language, history and sanctity.
Recent work Heroines – OVUM and PRESSING ON is inspired by the persistent and dedicated life's work and writings of American feminist, transcendentalist Margaret Fuller in the 19th C. and social reformer, abolitionist Hannah More in the 18th C. in the U.K. Examining each of these trailblazers, reveals not only the depth and density of deep seated issues, but also informs us of the progression within our culture, inspiring us to continue to raise one's voice to inequality and injustice.
Pages of Hannah More's writings are cut, scorched, woven and layered with textiles, thread, lace and sandpaper - Antique “sad” (solid) irons convey the stories, presented singly or installed as multiples, evoking the tactile, experiential memory of a domestic labor force. The sad irons represent the erstwhile servitude of those pressing, the 'herstories' of those laboring under the demands for pressed garments and linens, to suit class distinctions and societal expectations. Garments carefully and repetitively manipulated, aided by the parallel tasks of mending, sewing and primping, were ultimately to be transformed by the applied and consistent heat and pressure.
"Her juxtaposition of materials, for her PRESSING ON Series, combines artifact, word, and fabric. The hardness of iron, the graciousness of lace, and the wisdom of words combines as a testament to women's tenacious movement forward. PRESSING ON honors abolitionist/feminist Hannah More and integrates history, memory, domesticity and celebrates women's political and public voice." Mara Mills, Deputy Director, Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art PBS/OFF BOOK Book Arts mini-documentary features Kunstadt in the segment, Transforming the Sacred. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC4fLk-XeeI