Studio Visit: Kathryn Shriver

Kathryn Shriver is an artist living and working in Montreal, QC. Her work can be seen in PLEAT’s October 2018 exhibition as well as kathrynshriver.com.

Please describe your work.

I work with the intersection of Art and Craft, and try to make work that slips in and out of either of those distinctions. When making, I focus on the ways that specific materials, objects, and processes play into the valuing of works on the shifty spectrum between Art and Craft. Examining the ways Craft and Art are separated as well as intertwined theoretically, materially, and historically, I’m interested in the valuing and politics of function, labor, and the shifting categorizations of different materials, makers, and practices as “minor.”

In the body of work I’m currently working on, which FOR DISPLAY pulls from, I’m specifically concerned with the hierarchy of the distinction between visual art and disciplines like design and fashion. This makes theories around taste, function, manufacture, economic value, and glamor particularly relevant, which has brought me to play with materials like hardware fixtures, shiny fabrics, and faux fur.

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

Thinking about the hierarchies inherent in the craft-art split, ideas around labor and the ways we value time have really shaped my interests in artmaking. Many of the crafty methods I use, specifically beadwork techniques, are time-consuming and build up slowly, yielding a time - product ratio that doesn’t fit into ideas of what is profitable or worthwhile according to the economic values of capitalism.

I think about this a lot while making—what is my labor worth inside our systems? (like many artists, I often can’t sell pieces at a high enough rate to fairly compensate me for the time spent making them) and what it’s worth outside of them. Internally, the meditative slowness, carving out time to really spend with myself and my materials gives me space to think creatively and to feel my own existence outside of the economic yield of my (feminized) work and  labor. This has politicized my work and made me more aware of the subversive potential for our daily actions and practices as well as how shifts in labor trends in the workforce shape art and vice versa.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?

Though I’m super interested in a lot of contemporary art practices that have variously directly and tangentially influenced my work through different phases, (Nadia Myre, Kayode Ojo, Ann Hamilton, Celia Perrin-Sidarous, and Elaine Cameron-Weir) I think the most relevant creative practices to cite in relation to my own work are that of three important women in my life, my mother, my grandmother, and my childhood neighbor, Sue Evick. All three of these women taught me traditional domestic crafts like needlework, embroidery, and crochet and encouraged me to develop these skills from a really young age. They all also practiced a very thoughtful and continual creative DIY interior design practice within their own homes, particularly my grandmother, who was always re-painting, stenciling, re-upholstering, and choosing fabrics for decorating her own home. This fostered a deeply-ingrained understanding in me as a child of feminized, domestic craft work as a serious and continual practice and how it functions in the world. I see these women as the artists that shaped my personal relationship to making, but I also have an academic education in visual art that has told me how the sort of practices these women keep are valued in relation to critical discourse and the market. This overlay of values has been the foundation for all lines of inquiry in my art practice.

How has social media affected your studio practice?

Social media has allowed me to feel some agency over the visibility of my work, keeping me motivated even during lull periods between exhibitions and helping me extend my artist community despite any isolating conditions. It’s also made me more mindful of creative ways of photographing and otherwise disseminating my work and how to engage others in my practice. This has been helpful in keeping me from falling too far inward and reminding me that if my work and practice aren’t relevant to others, there’s serious work to do.

That being said, social media also creates a pull towards a desire to make artwork that is polished, easily packaged and represented in a single photograph. There’s a certain aesthetic that gets circulated successfully through the internet, and recognizing the want to bend to that keeps me mindful of how I’m being influenced by the images around me. Ultimately, this has given me some more creative material as I’ve become critically interested in engaging with and re-evaluating trends, making pieces that very purposely either adhere to or break with these conventions to understand this value system.