Katie Kimmel & Lorien Stern On Their New "Very Rare" Show @ Hashimoto Contemporary
As we all adjust to the virtues of “virtual” gatherings, where black sweats replace black leggings and jeans, art openings still hum with anticipation. This weekend our friends at Hashimoto Contemporary in NYC will host a virtual opening party on Instagram live on Saturday, April 4th for Very Rare, a duo-solo show by Katie Kimmel and Lorien Stern. The show brings together two ceramic artists who share the ability to honor the craft tradition, casting their pieces with welcome comic glaze. Just in time for the virtual debut, Hashimoto's Jennifer Rizzo caught up with both artists to talk about their work in Very Rare, how quickly the world landscape has changed and life in the Mojave Desert.
Jennifer Rizzo: I read somewhere that you met through Instagram, and have since become great friends.
Katie Kimmel: I followed Lorien on Instagram and went to a Pop-up event in LA to meet her. We had a nice conversation, she gave me a pin and I even called someone after to tell them that I had made a new friend! Months later I went to another pop-up to say hi wearing the gifted pin, she said “cool pin” and I said ~thanks someone really cool gave it to me~ and she said “nice!”. I realized then she did not remember me and I QUICKLY left - we never spoke again.
What kind of pin was it?
KK: A little blue shark.
Lorien Stern: LOL I do think I have some sort of face blindness disorder and a horrible memory. Katie later tagged me in a pic of her holding one of my sculptures with her dog, Pony, humping her leg. I thought it was funny and it led me to seeing a drawing she posted that featured a bunch of dogs jumping/dancing and it said “the very best time ever.” It reminded me of one of my favorite dreams I had where dogs were jumping and once they reached peak height they would whisper “yes.” It was a very happy slow motion dream. So I bought the print and told Katie we should hang out sometime.
KK: Oh right we did speak again!
That sounds like the absolute best dream (and the very best time) ever! The theme and title of the upcoming exhibition is Very Rare and you interpreted it in distinct ways. Katie, you created a series of kitschy memorabilia reminiscent of what finds in a Hallmark card store, as well as imagined trophies for unique situations. Lorien, you fused the theme with your interest in environmental conservation, placing a spotlight on exotic, extinct and near extinct animals, as well as “rare” versions of your well known ceramic shark heads. How did you land on this theme and varied approaches?
KK: My mom and I are very into antiquing, she will get obsessive about one type of ‘hot ticket item’ (most memorably Roseville Pottery) and for long periods of time it’s this feeling like Roseville Pottery is more valuable than gold. Then it was Napco Lady Head vases, I found one at goodwill with the earrings intact for 5 dollars - It was a huge deal. So, when Lorien and I landed on the theme of “Very Rare” that’s where my mind went. We hadn’t discussed too much what we were individually making but the general idea was to create an old wealthy person’s curiosity room, so there was a lot of flexibility.
LS: I was interested in making pieces that would be considered taboo to own if they were the real deal. I was especially excited to make an F1 Savannah Cat, a domestic cat bred with a Serval. I think they are one of the coolest looking animals and they look so wild and big in a human environment, but are controversial species to breed/purchase. It was also a fun excuse to research endangered and extinct species that aren’t commonly known. I had never heard of coelacanths before this show, a fish thought to be extinct 65 million years ago, but were discovered to still be in existence in 1938. I also had no idea stag beetles were illegally being illegally bought and sold for up to $89,000.
This show was also a fun excuse to make some gold versions of some of my recurring characters, something I haven’t done before.
Once you knew what direction you were going, did you discuss or see each other's pieces in progress? While there aren’t any collaborative original works, did you give each other ideas or feedback?
LS: We both agreed this would be a fun excuse to do some pieces in gold, other than that we mostly stuck to our own paths in uncovering what the theme “Very Rare” sparked in us. We both enjoy humor and color so we felt that no matter what we made our styles would likely compliment each other.
The recurring characters I used in this show are my sharks and ghosts. These are symbolically significant to me because they are both things that I fear that I wish I didn’t. I make them look goofy, happy, or approachable in order to help disarm my fears.
KK: In the most friendly definition of the phrase we like to take a competitive approach to working together. We shared work-in-progress photos throughout but it was more of a “look what I made >:)” over a “what do you think of this?” sentiment. If that makes sense.
I tried to stay away from my usual theme (dogs) in the beginning because I thought it’s not ‘very rare’ for me to make a piece about dogs. But in the end I had to add a piece featuring my two dogs because I love them and their beautiful faces so much.
What do you hope people take away from the new body of work?
LS: I hope people get to see something that they normally might not have access to because of the subject’s rarity.
KK: When I started working on this show I knew that I wanted to let myself be nostalgic and goofy. I laughed to myself constantly in the studio throughout and I hope people can appreciate how much fun this show was to put together.
Working primarily in ceramic, what are some of the challenges you face when working with the medium? Does a piece from the show come to mind that was particularly difficult to construct?
LS: I love ceramics, but there is so much room for error every stage of the process. The two headed snake was my biggest feat for this show. I built it 2 inches at a time every 2 hours for a span of a couple weeks. I am kind of surprised it turned out with no complications!
KK: I don’t even bother making sketches before starting a piece because I’ve accepted that it will never turn out exactly so. My biggest problem is usually working too fast- I’ll get excited and want to see a piece finished and then in a few hours it will buckle and deflate. For this show I got a little too excited with the Rabbit piece and when I came back in the morning it had hopped off the table - I guess he was excited too.
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard a lot of artists say that current social distancing mandates have not affected their daily routines much, since they tend to work in isolation. I’m curious how or if it has affected your studio practice.
KK: I work from home and I don’t usually leave or have very many visitors so the social distancing mandate has been easy for me to abide and in that way nothing really has changed. Going online is a terrifying nightmare and unfortunately the quarantine has not inspired me to clean my house.
LS: My routine has pretty much stayed the same amidst the social distancing mandates. I often go for weeks without leaving the property anyway, so self isolating and staying productive hasn’t required much adjusting for me.
You’re both based in the Mojave Desert, that must be such an incredible landscape to be surrounded by! How does the desert influence and inspire your work?
KK: It is very nice and I really appreciate the space that comes with it - both mental and physical. It feels like there are more hours in the day out here which has definitely improved how I work.
LS: I am easily distracted so it’s nice to have the seclusion to help me focus. We’re not limited by space, nor do I have a huge overhead out here, so that allows me to take more risks. I especially love the Spring time super blooms out here and we have some pretty incredible year round sunsets. I am a big fan of bright colors!
Hashimoto Contemporary will be hosting a virtual opening party on Instagram live on Saturday, April 4th so we can all enjoy the show from home. Follow us on Instagram (@hashimotocontemporary) for details.
Hashimoto is also excited to share that in conjunction with the exhibition, they will be releasing a limited edition print with Katie and Lorien. $10 from each print sale will be donated to No Kid Hungry, who are working with schools and food banks to ensure children don't miss meals due to Coronavirus school closures. The print will be available for purchase on Thursday, April 9th at hashimotocontemporary.com