Serendipitous Detour: the drawings of Kate Hendrickson
At the end of 2018 Mesh started showing the drawings of Kate Hendrickson, an artist who divides her time between Chicago and Sarasota. Who is Kate? What is her path as an artist? What is it about her work that should make you look; and more generally, what’s her work about? Let’s take a closer look.
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in West Virginia, at an early age Kate saw herself as an artist. She recalls drawing herself at age 11 wearing a beret and painter’s smock. Trained in printmaking by Will Peterson at West Virginia University, she completed her MFA in Printmaking and Drawing under Mel Strawn at the University of Denver.
Travels through Europe and the United Kingdom, led to encounters and opportunities in Chicago first, then to other places in the US, and then back to the Windy City. Teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago and Barat College, just north of the city, afforded Hendrickson to continue creating and exhibiting. Working for art galleries, Kate spent time in Los Angeles and Detroit, before returning to Chicago and settling in as a private art dealer. Kate spent decades selling art and representing artists she respects.
As the art market slowdown in 2007 afforded her time to draw again, Kate started to envision a future in which making art would become a primary activity, rather than a side-gig. This transition from art dealer to artist didn’t happen overnight and certainly wasn’t linear for her. Today, however, Hendrickson is truly an artist, who spends some time drawing nearly every day.
The first subject matter Hendrickson explored, when she started drawing actively again, were shells. She had collected them over the years and found their familiarity to offer suitable subjects. The endless possibilities of light cast onto the volumes; the textures and asperities of these creatures, as well as the shadows they in turn cast on opposing sides of the shells, were a rich inspiration in this early work. As a matter of course, Hendrickson kept coming back to the spires of the conches resting in her studios, at times turning her gaze to other subjects of the sea, such as starfish. Protuberances, catching brightness and casting contrasting darkness, feature strongly in her work from 2007 and beyond.
While the subject of these drawings is homogeneous, Hendrickson’s attention is focused not on subject but on form. From the inception of this artistic journey, abstracting efforts are palpable. The elements that drive the composition are the line, the texture of the drawing, the saturation of the graphite and the adjacent blank areas. The resulting drawings are rich, velvety and sensual object.
Gestural sketches became part of Hendrickson’s practice as early as 2012. As she points out these drawings “keep me loosened up from the tight, technical drawings that I was doing”. By 2013 the rejected compositions became material for cutouts and collages.
While shading these shapes in 2016, Hendrickson found she was increasingly attracted to the shadows they cast in turn onto the protective sheets she placed underneath. These abstracted forms seem to have been what she had been seeking to extract from her subjects all along. These were evocations of shapes of the sea, but detached from the immediacy of their nature.
The series that resulted out of this artistic progression, titled Serendipitous and Serendipitous Detour, are what Mesh Art Gallery features at this time. Both monochromatically and in color Hendrickson initiates her drawings with simple shapes, distant echoes of the sea. She then lets lines and shades dictate where the drawing takes her and in turn us. Like the sand she observes often, both on Chicago’s and Sarasota’s beaches, the sedimentary approach she utilizes to construct her art, pays tribute to her subject. Once settled the composition dictates a title.
It reminds me of a concept regarding stone sculpting, which it is said Michelangelo first put into words: Every block of stone has a statue inside it. It is the task of the sculptor to discover it. In Hendrickson’s work it is the viewer’s task to decide what she or he sees. Hendrickson’s titles evoke, but do not dictate.
Below three stages in the evolution of a drawing from inception to completion.