Peggy Cyphers, art critic of Arts magazine, has said of her work,"(her sculptures are) ethereal in their implication of a space that is inhabited by the unseen, matter which looks to have left its skeletal structure for a new form. Baroque and constructivist devices merge in Goodell's works, their efficacious natures obsessively hand-made and exacting in their symmetry and biological patterning."
Goodell has had numerous one-person and group exhibitions. She has also been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, two from the National Endowment for the Arts, and two from The New York Foundation for the Arts. Goodell currently teaches studio art at SUNY.
Brian Sherwin: Kathy, where did you study art? Who were your mentors at that time? Also, when and why did you decide that art was your calling, so to speak?
Kathy Goodell: My first couple of years were spent at Sacramento State University. It was near my home, so I was able to live at home for a year or two, to reduce expenses. I studied with the painter Jim Nutt, who was there for a three year teaching position. I had several teachers, some from the San Francisco Bay Area, that were inspiring, but Mr. Nutt possessed qualities that I found compelling and life changing, to me, as a student.His involvement with his art was devotional and nearing obsession. I felt this and saw my commitment needed to be fully engaged if it was to be at all.
In my third year of college I decided to transfer to The San Francisco Art institute. It was a great time for the institute and studying art. We had free tuition to third world students, so it was a multi-cultural environment, and very cross- disciplinary, as well. The film archives were located on campus with weekly films open to the public. Poets regularly came to our seminars to discuss our work as well as their own work.
Gregory Corso was a regular, and several other beat poets. Also, the Anthropologist Gregory Bateson, who regularly was a professor at Stanford, taught a course or two. I took one in which he brought a lobster claw to the first day of class, and said we would spend the entire semester talking about how we could tell that it had once been alive. I still think about that class-it was pivotal on many levels. The light show impresario, and artist Bruce Conner was a mentor, as was the painter, Jay Defeo.
My first gallery representation was when I was 21, at the Berkeley Gallery, an artists cooperative gallery in San Francisco, which included, Jay Defeo, Bruce Conner, Judith Linhares, Joan Brown, and Robert Crumb. The process of joining the gallery was by nomination, and then a vote by all the membership. It was a great experience-we were not in competition with each other but in support, and there were strong friendships made and some of those bonds are still there.
BS: A few months ago I had an interview with Norman Carlberg. I'm curious, was he an influence? Did you study his work?
When I was a child, at about the age of ten, I began to feel a powerful sense of wonder in regards to the natural world. I think I gradually began to realize that my questions about why things were as they appeared to be, couldn’t be answered satisfactorily by others. Then when I began to attend college I took a class in far eastern philosophy concurrent with my art courses. My interest in becoming an artist became clear. I accepted that it was the place for me to work out my inquisitive nature.
I liked that art was like an envelope for all of ones interests. Nothing is irrelevant- it can all exist together. So, I could take my interests in biology, philosophy, music, and it could all affect my work in a profound manner. I consider my work a poetic visual questioning.
BS: Kathy, I notice that you've won several impressive grants, awards, and residencies. You have obtained a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in the past for Sculpture and you have also obtained fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Do you have any suggestions for emerging artists who are seeking awards and grants? Any tips for placing their best foot forward?
KG: My advice would be to stay steadfast in your goals and interests as an artist, in spite of fashion. To trust in your individual instincts, and avoid distractions. The images you present are of course critical. Learn how the work is best photographed. How does your vision project. This is especially critical for sculpture. It is much more difficult to capture. And have patience with yourself.
BS: Your drawings often take on a biomorphic form... they seem alien in their design. The same can be said for your sculptures in that they look like artifacts from another world or time. I'm interested to know what influences your work. Can you tell our readers where these ideas stem from? Do you have an interest in science? Do you dream of other worlds?
KG: It is curious that my drawings, or the particular drawings that you speak of, seem to appear alien. The drawings began with my curiosity to magnify the unseen. I began to look through the microscope at cellular structure, from either my own body or plant life-and then I drew them through magnifying goggles. My scientific examination wasn’t really that scholarly as my imagination tended to take hold and subvert any accuracy.
What attracted me to the lens of the microscope, or in fact to my uses of lenses in general, is that it signifies time, looking into our deep past or our subconscious. I then stopped looking outward and used chance and stream of conscious structural elaboration to evolve the drawings. They almost make themselves out of a trance state. In both the sculpture and the drawings, I want the work to be palpable, to have a life force of its own. I have a desire to transform our perceptions.
There are both references to the Modern and the Archaic in my work. This longing for the Archaic shows itself in a search for certain values abandoned by Industrial Machine Age; the handmade and a regard for form. The Modern aspects of my work regard a desire to implode form, for both form and its dissolution to exist simultaneously. I think I search out inner worlds and unseen worlds.
I am interested in the links between the macrocosm and the microcosm, in how structures grow, how entities relate. I am interested in fleeting forms, perception and the penetration of inner unconscious spaces. I am primarily interested in the revelatory experience. My interest in lenses, glass, fluids, reflects my attraction to optics, how space becomes amplified or imploded. Water, fluids, mercurial surfaces represent the unconscious, memory, depth of emotion, and the transitory nature of the physical world.
BS: Kathy, your sculpture installations sometimes involve hanging pieces. Observers bump into them or move awkwardly around them (fulfilling Ad Reinhardt's definition of sculpture). Is it one of your goals to challenge the conditioned view of what a sculpture can be? We, as a society, are often taught to look and not touch as far as art is concerned... why do you challenge this notion with your sculptures?
KG: I am not setting out to challenge the conditioned view but fulfilling my interests related to gravity and viewpoint, and the ‘gut’ relationship to our bodies. Sometimes a piece is meant to move freely and occupy the air space, and then it is suspended. I’ve always resisted the pedestal, because I feel the pedestal itself is a dominant form and can compete or merge with the form that sits on it. I prefer the floor to the pedestal as it is an architectural support more than a form.
BS: I've read that you were involved with an artists' colony. Can you describe that experience?
KG: Yes-I went to Costa Rica a little more than a year ago. I was interested in the volcanoes, especially, but also the cloud forest. I did a piece before going, called ‘sounding’-a big green void made from stacked and etched glass. The void in the center is indistinct, varying with the light and draws you in but leaves you desiring because the surfaces are different but so close.
When I went to Costa Rica I took a trip with the other artists to ‘Arenal’-a majestic place-a massive volcano filled with green fluid the color of an emerald one moment and then pea soup the next. We stayed and watched the light change and the fog drift into the hole-it would merge with the fluid in the crater and really mess with ones perception. It is at an elevation of 12,000 feet. My time at the residency, the entire month, was speckled with revelatory experiences.
I traveled about one fourth of the time and the rest I spent making work in the private cabana’s that were provided us. We would have group dinners often. It was beautiful weather and I was able to work outside and escape February in New York. There were seven artists in total and a few of us remain in contact still.
BS: Kathy, you have shown steadily since the 1970s. Which exhibits have stood out in your mind? Or are they all equally important? Also, do you have any suggestions for emerging artists in regards to exhibiting? Sometimes the hardest obstacle for a young artist is to obtain his or her first solo exhibit. Should emerging artists show anywhere and everywhere? Or is it an issue of quality over quantity as far as exhibits are concerned?
KG: My first few solo shows were very exciting, of course, nerve racking also. But it is really a thrill to have total control over a space and when you are just beginning to exhibit and probably coming from working in a relatively small space, as a young artist . It is really empowering. For myself, I am always excited about future possibilities for exhibitions, and I think most artists would tell you that.
I would suggest that young artists avoid showing in restaurants and coffee houses. Food always wins over and the audience is not focused on the art. I would suggest looking for alternative spaces run by artists. There are many, all across the country, run by committed teams of artists and arts administrators that are devoted, appreciative, and who have a vision.
Look for listings, open calls for submissions, and then check out their websites to see the spaces or past shows. It is a good place to begin. Showing everywhere just to be s howing. isn’t necessarily going to produce the best experiences.
BS: A few months ago I had an interview with Norman Carlberg. I'm curious, was he an influence? Did you study his work?
KG: I loved that interview and really his work is quite beautiful but as a young artist I was influenced by a group of artists (the Arte Povera movement) that were more interested in materials and processes and breaking away from a focus on form.
I believe it was a necessary move for sculptors beginning to work in the seventies-to break away from the Brancusi dominance. There was a sense of freedom to invent with new materials, and to use the architecture of the room in fresh ways. And as a woman artist I wanted to break away from male dominated forms, like the forging of steel that my teachers were doing. Not that woman are not capable of these modes, but we were out to discover our own vocabulary.
Early Lee Bontecou, Eva Hesse, Janis Kounnellis, Mario Merz, Kurt Schwitters, Calder, could be considered influences.
BS: Your career has been well documented. Articles about you can be found in publications like ARTnews and The New York Times. How do you feel when your work is recognized in this manner? Do you handle the press well?
KG: I like hearing what others have to say. An artist friend of mine often said there is no publicity that is bad. I am not sure I agree with that assessment. But I do enjoy getting feedback especially if there is a new point of view that I hadn’t recognized before.
BS: Kathy, what are you working on at this time? Can you reveal any insight into your future plans?
KG: I am continuing to develop stacked forms made from glass which is acid etched or treated in other manners, such as leafed, and which contain a void within them and are porous, so that the light is a crucial factor. I plan on working these stacks in other materials, and developing new ways of holding voids in space. Water is ever present in my mind, for the parallels with our subconscious and its healing qualities.
I’m also working on some new drawings which relate to the sculptures as they utilize geometry, and the flow of water to create an organic presence. They are helpful in finding new forms for sculpture but exist as self evolving entities, also.
BS: Do you have any exhibitions lined up? Also, where can our readers see more of your art?
KG: Yes-my drawings are presently being exhibited at the Turchin Center for the Arts, in Boone, North Carolina.. the exhibition is called the halpert biennial and I won the first place award.
In September I will have a drawing installation at the Aferro Gallery in Newark, New Jersey and also opening on September 1-a sculpture will be exhibited in a seven person show at The Alpan Gallery in Huntington, New York... I have some other shows pending and then in January I will have a large piece at Connecticut College, entitled in an exhibition entitled “The Object in View: Considering Light and Image.
This exhibit is particularly exciting because the context is a subject matter of primary interest to me, and the other artists are simpatico with my work. Most of the work includes, movement, light, or lenses and spans sculpture, animation, installation with film. It should be a magical show.
The viewers can see a selection of my work, spanning 1977 to the present, on my website- www.kathygoodell.com
BS: Finally, do you have anything else you would like to say about your art or the artworld?
KG: Just that the wonder is still there!
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Kathy Goodell and her art. Again, you can learn more about her work by visiting her site: www.kathygoodell.com
Take care, Stay true,