Kati Gegenheimer (b. 1984, Langhorne, PA) recently mounted solo exhibitions at North Orange, (Montclair, NJ) and Gross McCleaf, (Philadelphia, PA). Her recent group exhibitions include The Woodmere 81st Annual at the Woodmere Museum, (Philadelphia, PA), Mars in Cancer at David Petersen Gallery, (Minneapolis, MN), Reveries at Peep Projects, (Philadelphia, PA), and Good Pictures curated by Austin Lee at Jeffrey Deitch, (New York, NY).
She received her BFA in Printmaking and Art History from Tyler School of Art in 2007 and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale School of Art in 2013. She has been a Pollock-Krasner Residency Recipient at Yaddo as well as an artist in residence at the Elizabeth Murray Artist Residency.
Gegenheimer currently lives and works in the Brewerytown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
'My paintings are the place where ‘having it all’ is possible - it’s all there on the surface. Time can be suspended, the to-do list repurposed, and the scroll of life can pause for the important parts to bubble back to the top like a kaleidoscopic calendar. My paintings hold what floats, which becomes ‘place’ and ‘time.’ Existing simultaneously as landscape, portrait, and still life, they are first built off of a known structure like a wall calendar, a stacked diptych with an image at the top and a grid on the bottom, or a music staff of five lines running along the horizon. Then, they are interrupted with colors and symbols that are signs and signifiers of place, time, mood, and sensation. Built with oil paint, the surfaces hold brush strokes that are both muscular and flourished in touch - emphatic and certain in their economy and intention. The point of painting in this moment in time is to create something that cannot otherwise exist. My paintings are not a replication of this reality, nor a depiction, but instead they are a handmade shorthand of potentials akin to a to-do-list. As the symbols and colors come together on a canvas, they form a visual narrative of a life, a train of thought, free association poetry of the modern world. Time, temperature, weather, mood and touch all unite in the name of feeling like a pivotal moment in a love-song ballad. They hold romance, sentimentality, and play the way a mirror holds a note in lipstick or a window holds a backward note in breath. To make one of my paintings is a reminder that I am here in a moment that is fleeting, interconnected to the people, places and things, that I'm lucky enough to be on this planet with at any single moment in time. My paintings are actively a sign, symbol, and record all at once."
Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.
I am originally from a small town called Pineville in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It's right near the Delaware River that borders Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Art has always been a part of my life, and for that I feel so grateful. Growing up in Bucks County, I had early experiences seeing art and antiques regularly, combing flea markets, visiting the Mercer and Michener Museum, and having an affinity for well known local furniture design heroes such as George Nakashima or Paul Evans. When I think about those formative experiences of viewing and experiencing art and design objects, it highlights the primacy of a certain kind of sensibility, taste, and tactility that feels inherent to the search that I'm engaged in as I make my paintings.
I went to Tyler School of Art, where I teach now, back when it was in Elkins Park, PA for my undergraduate degree from 2003-2007. I received my BFA in Printmaking, but at that time I was also doing quite a lot of moonlighting in their fantastic Painting Program, while also receiving my minor in Art History. I continued working on my art after my undergraduate studies and painting really took the front seat in my work. I applied to Yale after a number of years working my way up at Freeman's Auction House in Philadelphia, and was admitted to graduate school. Going to Yale was an entirely life changing experience for me, in terms of the community I was able to become a part of, the incredible professors that I got to work with, and the in-depth knowledge-sharing and critical looking that Yale Painting has long been known for. I received my MFA from Yale Painting and Printmaking in 2007. I went with the intent to sincerely become a better painter, and I left knowing that I had, (and the journey continues)!
I moved to New York for a few years to stick with my tight-knit community and held some wild jobs, like working in a prop house, transcribing from documentary interview footage, working for a luxury silk scarf company and as a personal assistant. I also got an amazing education by working as an artist assistant for some female artists who are each quite important to me and how I think about my work and where it meets my life. Living in New York was really a time of growth for me, personally, but I felt that my paintings suffered in the inherent lack of time and space I could dedicate to them. I eventually found myself back in New Haven teaching and beyond at Yale, most importantly working for three summers at the Yale Norfolk Summer School of Art and Music under Sam Messer's directorship. Those summers were magical and inspiring, and solidified my interest in the genuine exchange I could engage in with students as an educator and artist.
Eventually, my husband, (the artist Mark Thomas Gibson) was hired for a tenure-track position at Tyler, so we came down to Philadelphia to settle in for the time being. This second time around for me, back in Philadelphia, has been so fruitful in terms of making my work and locating an amazing community of really generous artists who live here - Philadelphia feels like the right place at the right time with the right people.
What kind of work are you currently making?
It is my preference to have a lot of work going at once in my studio, and typically I work in series. Since I'm working in oil paint, it's helpful for me to work on a painting and set it aside to dry for the next pass, so I bounce around quite a bit. Right now I have about three categories of paintings simmering in my studio - calendars, hearts, and music. While I'm working on my paintings, I am also making drawings and sketches of future paintings or alternate solutions to paintings that I might be unsure of how to solve.
Right now, I'm working toward a two-person exhibition coming up later this fall which will feature a selection of my heart paintings, which are paintings on heart-shaped panels that I made myself, complete with romantically scallopped edges. The heart in itself is a compositional challenge that I love to take on.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
I typically hold fairly regular hours in the studio when I can ( 9am - 6pm ). I usually come in and warm-up the space, so to speak, by reading, drawing, listening to music, or cleaning. I need an organized studio where I can really see what I'm doing, so maintenance is key! My dog is usually laying around sleeping or watching me paint. I'll often check in with painter friends who might also be in the studio on any given day. I do my best to stay away from my computer or the endless scroll if I can help it - some days are better than others.
I feel so lucky that my studio is about a block away from a park or a few blocks from Fairmount Park, so a lunchtime walk with my dog is always a good excuse to get in some fresh air and to get fresh eyes from walking away from the work.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
I'm taking in so much information these days, it's thrilling! This morning when I woke up, I read Hilton Als' essay in the Robert Gober catalog, 'The Heart is Not a Metaphor.' A dear friend gifted me the catalog of the recent Joan Brown exhibition that's been on tour. She's been a favorite painter of mine since I was turned onto her in my undergraduate years so I'm glad that she's getting her due.
I've been listening to 'Cruel Optimism' by Lauren Berlant while I've been painting on the recommendation by another artist here in Philadelphia, which is incredible. Jane Hirshfield, one of my favorite poets and people just put out an incredible volume of poems 'The Asking: New and Selected Poems' which is so grounding in the studio; it's a bit easier to welcome the day with a poem than an entire book.
Finally, I just finished Geoff Rickly's book, 'Someone Who Isn't Me.' He's long been one of my favorite singers much in part for the lyrics he writes and the emotion he conveys, and this debut book took it to a whole new level of beautiful writing about psychic spaces. I'm still thinking about two painting shows I saw last week in New York by incredible painters Charline Von Heyl and Rebecca Morris.
Where can we find more of your work? (ex. website/insta/gallery/upcoming shows)