April 27, 2013

Interview with Kathy Nida

An occasional series featuring an interview with one of our members

Kathy Nida

I Gave Already, January 2013, 40” w x 60” h, 
currently in the Gift exhibit at Mesa College Art Gallery, March 14-April 18, 2013

What theme or ideas are reoccurring in your work? 
Most of my work deals with women or women’s issues. I focus on the biology, the reproduction, the being of Mother or not.  Most of my work deals with the human figure and being one of these three things: being a woman, being a mom, being a human. 

Which historical figure or artist do you most identify with?
When I was young, I would tell people I was the reincarnation of Mary Cassatt. I think that was because she was the only female artist that I knew about, and I knew I was a female and an artist. A lot of my work does deal with mothers and children, but not with the same style as Cassatt. I don’t really identify with anyone, but I know Rauschenberg, Kahlo, Picasso, and Dali all had an effect on my work…then again, I think Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry did as well.

What is the origin of your ideas, the locus? 
Dreaming. Letting my mind wander. Sometimes something will strike a nerve, like a tsunami or something political, and that will be my focus. I might do 5 or 6 drawings with that focus, and maybe 2 of them will become quilts.

Disrupted, February 2010, 4 8x8” pieces, 57.5 w x 70.5” h, 23.5 w x 70.5” h (117”w x 70.5” h), 
currently traveling in the Sightlines exhibit, with stops at the Grants Pass Museum of Art, Grants Pass, OR, 
May 28-July 26, 2013; and the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center, Belleville, IL, August 22 – October 15, 2013.

When did you first become interested 
in fiber?

Tsunami, August 2012, 60” w x 52.25” h,
 recently in Capturing the Wonder of Women
Women’s Museum of California, San Diego, CA; Dec 7, 2012-Feb 25, 2013

My mom taught me to sew when I was 8. She was a weaver and she sewed, so I’ve been surrounded probably since birth. I spent my college years doing photography, ceramics, screenprinting, and etching, but most of these were too expensive post-college, so I focused on screenprinting. I started taking quilting classes in my early 20s, but didn’t apply that knowledge to my art until my first child was born. Screenprinting required these big blocks of time to make and clean screens. You couldn’t just stop in the middle to feed a hungry baby. Fabric could be done in little chunks and carried onto the soccer field and to piano lessons. It just happened from there.

What about the medium of fiber appeals to you? 
Touch. Drape. Making an image with all these different colors that work much differently than ink or paint. Depth.

What is the greatest pleasure you get in your work?
Having time to get lost in it. The brain when it’s making art is much happier than when it isn’t.

What is your biggest challenge as an artist?
I don’t have enough time. My job as a teacher sucks up huge amounts of time, and I’m a single mom with two teenagers. I don’t sleep much. I wish I could work more during the school year, but it’s a difficult balance. If I spend too much time making art, the work side suffers and vice versa.

What is your creative process? 
I draw a lot. I have a small sketchbook that goes many places with me, especially out to dinner. I draw in that. Sometimes I pull out the big sketchbook late at night, when I’m done grading papers or when I don’t have the energy for anything else, and I draw. Sometimes something pokes me in the brain enough that I need to draw it out. Sometimes the entire drawing will create itself in my head while I’m driving, and I’ll have to hold it there until I have time for pen and paper. Everything starts as a line drawing. I enlarge that and then number the pieces. I trace them all onto fusible web and then cut those out. I iron each piece onto fabric and then trim all of those down. Putting the quilt together is like making a puzzle…I iron them together using the drawing underneath a Teflon sheet, and then that gets ironed to a background. I stitch them down and then quilt, usually using a dark outline thread for the parts I want to emphasize, and then quilting the background in an all-over pattern to make the images pop. Sometimes I use ink, embroidery, or beads to embellish the piece, but usually I expect the image to be the most important part.

Why did you decide to become a member of CF?
I was looking for more opportunities to show my work outside of the quilt world, which can be quite insular and traditional at times. My work sometimes gets in trouble in the quilt world…with images that would not cause issues in the art world. I am more an artist than a quilter.

Does California, as a locale, physically or an idea, emotionally, manifest itself in your work? 
I grew up here. I’ve lived here almost all my life. I think it would be hard to say that it doesn’t show up in there, in the way I think, which must be much different than how I might think if I had grown up in say Wales or South Africa. That said, I’m not sure how I would explain exactly what makes me a Californian artist.

Who would you like to critique your work? 
I’m not really into critiques. By the time I show my stuff to people, I’m committed to it. I take full responsibility for it. I don’t really want to involve other people in that.

What is your biggest fear as an artist?    Going blind. 

What tool could you not live without?
Black Sharpie, extra fine. Paper would be nice too, but I could make do.

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