Artist Katie Stout Wanders a Graveyard in the Hudson Valley
I’ve been making a lot of clocks lately. Well, two of them — but that’s two more than I’d made before, and I think it has to do with where I live. Last fall, I moved up to the Hudson Valley in search of more space to think and explore. Even though I’m still figuring out what my life’s going to look like here, I’ve already noticed a shift in my artistic practice. I haven’t always been that thoughtful in my career about how I spend resources, especially time. But there’s something about this place, which has a bell tower and a graveyard, that’s very much about time.
I’m still shocked that it was available, although, technically, most of the property’s one acre is a cemetery that dates to the 1800s, so I suppose people didn’t really want to deal with that. Part of me is waiting for the ghouls to come out. But being able to wander around aimlessly is, I think, important for a creative practice. The best ideas usually come when I’m not staring at the work for hours looking for solutions. I suspect that being here’s going to lead to more clarity and less second-guessing. Maybe I’ll start fewer projects, but hopefully I’ll finish more of them.
For my recent show at R & Company in New York, “Klown Town,” I was working until an hour before the opening. The art handlers showed up at my door and said, “Katie, we really need to go.” My work has to be ripped from my hands for me to feel like it’s ever done. I used to beat myself up about that — it took me three years to complete the work for this show — but I’ve made peace with it, in large part because of the gallerist Nina Johnson, who told me, “You might not be one of those artists who finishes on time, but, Katie, look at the range you have to make all the work you did.” And now I’m like, “You know what? I do have the range, and I’m not going to apologize for keeping the art handlers waiting.”
There’re so many ways to be an artist, but the most unifying thing is a feeling of perpetual curiosity, a frenetic, bottomless compulsion to respond to things that’re going on. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what people perceive to be precious, which is the primary consideration that runs through my recent work — ideas of womanhood and fertility, as well as the aesthetic of objects from the Victorian era. It’s made me double down on my interest in learning about different crafts across time and in combining old and new methods with my own hands. Walking the line between beauty and vulgarity feels so good.
A version of this article appears in print on April 24, 2022, Page 86 of T Magazine with the headline: Artist and Furniture Designer Katie Stout.