Katherine Mann was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but grew up moving around the United States, Asia and the Middle East as the child of a US Foreign Service Officer. She received her dual BA from Brown University and MFA degree in painting from the Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art. Half-Asian American and a life-long expatriate, she combines elements from natural history, graphic design and Chinese ink painting into abstract pieces exploring themes of excess and growth. She has held solo exhibitions at the Pressiton Gallery, Miami, FL; Guandu National Park, Taipei, Taiwan; and Hong Zhuan Gallery, Yilan, Taiwan, and was the recipient of a Fulbright Grant in 2006 and the Toby Devan Lewis Prize in 2009. In 2009 she also attended the residency program at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and will go to the Vermont Studio Center in the winter.
Please visit www.katherinemann.net to see more of Katherine’s work.
My time at Blue Sky Project was made up of eight of the most challenging and stimulating weeks in my artistic and professional life. When I first applied to Blue Sky, I knew that I would be able to incorporate and be inspired by the ideas and visual language of the youth I would work with. I knew that I’d be able to create ambitious work and get a lot of it done. I didn’t anticipate, however, the degree to which working collaboratively would force me to investigate, challenge and up-end my own artistic practice, or the opportunities I would have to create projects that, though stemming from my original work, I would never have been able to conceive of myself.
At Blue Sky, because I was creating my paintings in partnership with seven high schoolers from a wide array of backgrounds, I had to be able to explain and verbally comb through the research, processes, and ideas that go into making my work—conversations that usually pass only through my own head. I was forced to become cognizant of why I painted the way I did, and be able to explain to teenagers the reasons behind my artistic decisions. So I had to allow them to understand my process—I also had to allow them and their own artistic decisions to become a part of my painting. I lost a degree of control over the work, but I gained a chorus of different styles, voices and personalities—and when these filtered into our paintings I found the results to be richer, crazier and more vibrant than I ever would have imagined.
Collaborating and living with the four other resident artists in the program was another unexpected gift. Before this summer, I had focused solely on painting—I had never created a piece of performance art, a dance, or a piece of installation art. By collaborating with two of the other resident artists, however, we were able to combine our respective fields—painting, dance, and video/animation—into one piece. Before Blue Sky, I had never considered my work to be community arts-based, and I still do not. But allowing the community into my art and into my life has forced me to first, reexamine the work that I do, and second, completely revolutionize my practice. I hope to continue collaborating and incorporating the work of others into my paintings, and I hope that in the future I’ll find myself in other situations as challenging and inspiring as the environment of Blue Sky.