Austin-based artist / illustrator Katy Horan answered a few questions for the Women & Their Work blog about how work, how Austin has influenced her work and her upcoming projects. You can check out Katy’s work on her website, http://www.katyart.com/.
The characters in your work all seem very fleshed-out and rich in their development – do you have a specific narrative in mind when you create them? Are they your own creation or do you draw your narratives from outside sources?
They are a combination of so many things. I pull from a lot of sources, but much of it is subconscious as well. There are times I start with something specific in mind, but more often, they begin as one thing and change as bits and pieces of things I’ve seen or read creep in and influence them.
What films, books and artists do you find yourself drawn to? How directly do you reference back to them in your work?
I am drawn to so many different things, like Folk Art, Animation, Horror movies, ghost stories, costume history, etc. Right now I am looking at a lot of Victorian mourning art and watching extreme French horror films, which is funny, because just last month I was reading Russian folk tales and watching a lot of Woody Allen. My interests can be very random, but they often have something dark or haunting going on. At times, something specific will strike me and I will reference it directly, but more often I try to capture a mood. For example, I love film scores, so when I hear something particularly haunting, I want my work to feel the same way. I never actually achieve it, but it motivates me to keep trying. It’s the same with the horror movies and ghost stories. There is some indescribably quality that I love about things that are spooky and macabre. I try to bring it into the work, but like the music, I never fully get it.
We were especially intrigued with your use of lace and other very traditionally feminine textures and intricate materials in your series of “spinsters”, can you elaborate on that at all?
I am really drawn to the roles and titles historically assigned to women such as widow and spinster. It turns them into an instant archetype similar to those in folklore, and I just find that really interesting. It’s the same with the lace and costuming. I think it’s so weird that for so long the point of women’s clothing was to create this exaggerated, inhuman shape. It’s as if a woman did not have a body, but was physically made of huge skirts and fabric and beads and lace and, basically decoration. I don’t mean to critique it. It is more that I find it so curious and am fascinated by the shapes and patterns themselves, in a very simple and aesthetic way. And at the same time, I am aware that these clothes and titles hid the person that the woman actually was, and that sucks.
How has Austin and its art community influenced your work? Have you noticed any shift in themes or style? (specifically from direct interaction in stores like Uncommon Objects)
Uncommon Objects definitely had an influence. For the past year or so, I have been incorporating elements of Victorian mourning customs and dress in my work. They have lots of stuff from that era including the mourning jewelry and early photographs that were great for both research and inspiration.
But the main thing about Austin is how much more productive I am. It’s such an easy lifestyle and I have so much more time for my work. I don’t think my work would have progressed nearly as far if I was still in New York.
What sort of projects / themes have you been working with recently?
I am still exploring themes of mourning and the supernatural, but I am starting to branch back into more narrative images that involve more than one character.
I am also working on some illustrations of folk and fairy tales, hoping to get the attention of a publisher. I have wanted to illustrate books for a very long time and am just now getting back around to pursuing it.
– Caroline Knowles