Keeping Up With The Active Activist
by Donna Dodson
In addition to being a fabulous administrator of public art as the director of the Boston-based non-profit organization Now + There, Kate Gilbert is a fabulous artist. From 2009 to 2011, her abstract work in painting took a turn toward sculpture when she started cutting the canvas to access the depth beyond the surface.
Her graduate work from 2012-2013 at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston led her to explore concepts of consumerism and high fashion with one-of-a-kind wearables: wristlets, vests, dresses, hoods and jackets that allude to anxiety, fear, protection and utility.
“Sculpture is the biggest umbrella of disciplines,” Gilbert said. “It incorporates objects, performance, installation, video, interactive and social practice.”
Collaboration is a big part of her studio practice. She has worked with many notable artists and curators, including Halsey Burgund and Mary Tinti. One of her recent shows, “Interdependence,” at Connecticut College, paired her work with the artist Abigail Anne Newbold. The two artists were working with analogous concepts and materials. The challenge in showing with another artist whose work was so similar was how to see one’s own work clearly and to imagine its future direction. They brought in Tinti (currently the curator of the Fitchburg Art Museum) to curate.
By exhibiting her inflatable piece called “UnPack,” she was able to see how the lines of the piece were echoing the earlier marks in her paintings. It was clear that she was creating a space to inhabit, and that wearing her painting as a protective garment resonated with her early intentions. Moving away from mere self-reflection and self-portrait, the piece was forcing Gilbert to ask the question, “What character would wear this device,” and “What would the context be for this story if it were a video?” Hence, the piece was leading the artist back into a deeper relationship with the work. She is constantly seeking to collaborate with new artists with whom she can grow. Furthermore, by working with a curator and an artist collaborator, she is able to create space around the work that allows for dialogue and criticism to push the work further.