Nicole Kutz: When the conditions all fall in place
by Etty Yaniv for Art Spiel, posted June 7, 2021
Nicole Kutz in the studio, 2020, Photo courtesy of Nicole Kutz
The Nashville based artist and curator, Nicole Kutz, meditates in her paintings on life’s transience through handmade pigments and dyes. She frequently draws on the Japanese Wabi-sabi aesthetics, as well as the artforms of shibori and kintsugi, to create ethereal abstracted worlds, where you can find beauty in imperfections.
Tell me a bit about yourself and what brought you to art.
I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA in 1991. As a child, I was wildly creative and terribly nearsighted. My strong astigmatism caused me to look at things closely and my imagination used that to its advantage to recreate the world around me. My vision issues, coupled with my introversion, did not translate well to sports, but I found my community in afterschool arts programs. Art classes provided a whole new outlet for me, where I could hide behind my drawings and let the paper speak for me.
The arts were also in my blood: my Oma was an artist and owned a gallery in Atlanta in the 1980s. I grew up visiting my Oma and Opa’s time capsule of a home, their basement filled with pieces that never sold, and I looked up to my Oma’s beautiful stories and love of art. She passed when I was 11 from a stroke and shortly after, she visited me during my first experience with sleep paralysis. She made it clear that I was meant to be in the arts and that my spirit was guided with painting. I held on to her words and still call upon that memory any time I question what brought me to making art in the first place.
That memory fueled me through a BFA from the University of Georgia and a MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I moved to Los Angeles after graduating in 2017 and felt that the change was a necessary shift in order for me to grow personally. I worked in several fields within the arts in hopes that working in tangent with my passion would satisfy my need to paint, but no matter how hard I tried to veer away from painting, it would always call me back.
The pursuit did however open my eyes to the business aspects of art. I worked as the Chief Curator to help build an online art streaming company, as a curatorial assistant for a fine art advisor and as a gallery manager for several galleries. These experiences shaped my approach to painting and emphasized time management as a key factor in my art, which I believe informed the majority of my material choices and love of process-based work. As cliché as it sounds, art has always been my therapy. Painting is how I process memory, past traumas, fears, and dreams. Every series has its own story but it all centers around my internal struggles and the ongoing goal of staying present.
Eastern philosophies seem to play a central role in your thinking about art. How is that expressed in making your paintings?
I have always resonated with Buddhist thought and wabi-sabi aesthetics are deeply ingrained into my process. Wabi-sabi is the truth that both life and art are beautiful not because they are perfect and eternal, but because they are imperfect and fleeting. I find this liberating not only in life, but also in how I approach making art. I have learned to embrace the flaws within a work, as well as materials that are unpredictable.
I also draw inspiration from meditation, Reiki therapy, moon cycles and how all of this plays into understanding my environment. Japanese culture views the moon as a symbol of the passage of time and as the guardian of mountains. The moon frequently finds its way into my work – be it subconsciously or planned.
For several years, I have attended Reiki therapy as an outlet to process trauma. Reiki is a form of alternative medicine that originated in Japan in the 1800s in which the healer administers treatment by accessing a universal energy through their palms. During multiple hours in this meditative state, I envisioned landscapes that resemble caves, glaciers, waterfalls or otherworldly structures. I channel these landscapes through painting as I attempt to recreate my subconscious spaces. With our thoughts, we create our reality, and through my art, I realized I could make this intangible energy, tangible.
Fera Space XXXVII, 2020, 21.5” x 22.5”, Indigo on paper with book binding thread, Photo courtesy of Nicole Kutz
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