Here we chat to Southern American Artist – Katelyn Ledford – about her background, practice, inspirations and what she is excited about in the future.
Can you tell us about your background and what drove you to become an artist?
I’m originally from the American South. While I was interested in drawing and painting as a kid, I had no exposure or idea what contemporary art was/is. The suburban south where I grew up was largely made up of cheap prints and paintings of roosters, so I spent my time developing Photorealistic drawing skills since I could teach it to myself. My parents were always supportive of my interest in art, so when I decided to go to college and get a BFA in it (and then ultimately a master’s), they were on board. College didn’t make me an artist, but it did make me realize what I didn’t know about art and that I could figure it out if I kept making paintings.
Describe your art in three words?
Tart, pseudo, thwart
What are the key themes in your artwork?
Key themes are portraiture and more specifically, portraits of the experiences of women (myself included). I’ve always been drawn to portraiture, but now it’s evolved to a literal reduced version of it, two eyes and a mouth. It’s all you need to see a face. The things that make up and create the face are what tell the story. Right now, I’m concentrating on art world experiences (whether personal or collective) that range from purposefully not being talked about out of fear of repercussions (don’t bite the hand that feeds) all the way to downright silly moments. I try to always bring humor into the work since people are more likely to listen to criticism if you make them chuckle. It’s also hard to be vulnerable so cynicism, self-deprecation, and even absurdity can make it go down easier, even for myself.
What motivates you to create?
I think I create paintings because I can’t quite verbalize the answer to this question. There’s just a deep desire to make.
What is your creative process when creating an artwork?
I’ll start with either an idea or image in mind then I’ll word vomit in my notes app about the idea (in addition to writing about the specific elements and objects I want to put into the painting). From there, I’ll start the sketch in Photoshop by collaging images, playing with colors, figuring out the composition, etc. Once I move to the canvas, the original sketch will change as the physicality of the work becomes the center focus. I like to use any and all materials so there’s a certain amount of planning that has to be done (so that everything is chemically sound) but I make sure to leave room for plenty of material changes and experiments. Improvisation is an integral part to bringing the painting and its specific elements together and those moments can’t be planned. Between every step and move is plenty of time spent just staring at the painting. I don’t follow a formula for painting so each one needs time to be figured out. What happens in the painting can also depend if I’m feeling like I’m not being stimulated enough while making it. I’m a firm believer in if you feel bored while making it, the viewer will feel your boredom in the final work.
Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history that have influenced your work?
For art history, Artemisia Gentileschi. Wow could she paint. For contemporary artists, Gina Beavers. The conversation between the online images (and images of the paintings/sculptures) and her real physical works is mind-blowing and changed the game for me of what a painting could be. If you haven’t seen her work in person, you must.
You recently graduated, receiving an MFA in Painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2019, entering a strange new world. What changes are you looking forward to in the art industry post- pandemic and what advice can you pass on to other emerging artists during this time?
I hope virtual walkthroughs of exhibitions are here to stay. I live in Boston so I’m not in a mega-art hub and virtual walkthroughs mean I can experience shows physically far from me in a more meaningful than just compressed JPEGs and a press release. However, by no means do virtual walkthroughs replace or compare to seeing art in person, but it does make the art world accessible for more people.
My advice to emerging artists is to build good work habits now and don’t spend a lot of time on Instagram. You have to make plenty of “bad” work in order to get to the good stuff and you can’t do that if you’re hardly in the studio and constantly worried about how many “likes” a picture of your work will get. Also, make yourself a financial budget (that’s advice for everyone).
Can you share with us any exciting future plans you are currently working on?
This year I’ll have my first international solo exhibition with Aishonanzuka in Hong Kong and then after that I’ll have a solo show with DUVE Berlin in Germany so I’m busy in the studio preparing for those.
You can follow Katelyn Ledford via her Instagram @kedford and found out more about her work on her website : katelynledford.com