Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview with Rochester Metal Artist Kathleen Kosel

Kathy in the gallery using Gilders Paste to color her metalworks
A retired art teacher, Kathy Kosel has only recently started working in metal.  She has grown leaps and bounds learning about her new art form, experimenting and creating new works. Kathy’s steelwork can be seen in the House Artists Gallery at The Shoe Factory Art Co-op.  Her work is also featured in the November exhibit “Once Upon a Coffee Table: Fine Art Furnishings” in the Shoe Factory’s Main Gallery.

Shoe Factory:  Where did you grow up?  Where do you live now?
Kathy Kosel: I was born in Rochester and have lived here most of my life, except for a 4 year stint in Las Vegas.  I now live in Webster.

SF:  What is your art medium?  What materials do you use?
KK:  I currently work with plasma cutting and MIG welding cold rolled steel.
SF:  How and when did you get into working with metal?

I started working in steel in September of 2010. I took a great little weekend class at Mahaney Welding Company where I learned how to plasma cut and weld. I do credit that instructor with getting me really thinking about welding as an art form! They have greatly enlarged their shop, now making welding and glass working a possibility in the Rochester Area.
SF:  How do you make your art? What is your process?

KK:  I start a piece by first deciding if it will be decorative, functional or ritualistic in intent. Then I sketch basic concepts in a sketch pad, followed by some research on the computer to help develop my idea. I then make a hard copy to draw onto the steel.
It may be the former teacher in me, but I do lots of “homework” before I start a project. For example, I did research on furniture makers and table design because I wanted to create work for the “Once Upon a Coffee Table: Fine Art Furnishings” show at The Shoe Factory Art Co-op. I came upon a very interesting woodworker named Paul Evans. He had hired a welder to add metal to his wood pieces. Now his works are well-known for their steel details!  It is interesting to find someone out there who is like-minded, and then play off of that artist with my own interpretation. My ceramics professor at Nazareth College used to say, “It has ALL been done before, only the details are different”.  So I take an idea that’s been done before, like designing a coffee table, and give it my own influence.
SF:  What are you currently working on?

KK:  Right now, I am “playing” with the metal cutouts I have accumulated over the past year that are leftover from my first pieces. It is a real joy! I make them into whatever I want, whatever moves me, like doodling in metal.  I challenge myself to find the right piece for a spot on a sculpture never altering that piece by cutting it again. I’ve made a human figure sculpture, a number of wall hanging masks, and a bunch of candle holders, such as some freeform Menorahs, all sculpted with these metal cutouts.
I am influenced by the Cubists (especially Picasso and Braque) and I use their deconstruction, re-assemble methods in my new additive sculptures. I am also interested in Louise Nevelson and Alexander Calder’s sculptures. My works have always had an architectural aspect to them...whether in painting, printmaking, ceramics or sculpture.

SF:  What or who are your influences? 
KK:  Art is in my family.  My mother was a very good artist and helped me develop my talent.  As a young child my father would take me over to his cousin Achille Forgione's metal studio in Rochester.  I became fascinated with the tools and the materials.  One summer Achille had me over and showed me how to weld and construct a sculpture from metal rods and steel.  He used a gas torch and welding rods.  I believe that now, all these years later, his inspiration has returned to me, and I really enjoy working with steel.
As an art teacher and student, my education gave me the chance to connect with all art from all over the world. I have traveled to West Africa, China, Europe, and lived in the Western US. I take all these experiences and use them in my works.

SF:  How has being an artist changed or affected your life?
KK:  Since I have stopped teaching in a school classroom setting, I challenge myself with the same questions I used to ask my students, “What do I want to say? Do I have a message at all?” Being an artist makes me feel like a creative being, that some people are meant to make things.  There is a great satisfaction to that.  
SF:  What is your favorite art-related experience in life so far?

KK:  My favorite art experience happened in Africa. I was visiting my son Scott, who was in the Peace Corps. He brought me to a woman in a local village who was the pottery maker for the entire region. She lived totally off the land and was very poor. She and her 11 daughters dug the clay, made the clay, built things with it, fired it, and sold it.
She invited me to sit with her and make clay wares. Without knowing her spoken language, we connected through our language of art-making. I realized then, that I could go anywhere, watch any potter, and know what they were doing. Making connections between ideas, process, and finished artwork is very important to me. There are many universal symbols in fine art and fine crafts.

SF:  What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
KK:  My goal is to grow in my understanding of working with steel. I feel once my techniques are mastered the creativity factor will increase! Joinery and structure are the bones of any metal work! As for the surface of the steel, there are acids, stains, waxes and paint finishes, all of which I am learning more and more about!
I want to make work that I enjoy and people can relate to and use in their living space.  I’d love to get into being funded to do larger, public outdoor installations, perhaps having to do with the history of Rochester.
SF:  Why did you become involved with Shoe Factory Art Co-op?

KK:  I decided to become a House Artist because it has inspired me to think like an artist! I am taking my art more seriously.  Instead of occasionally working on my welding, I now work on it 5-6 hours every day of the week! I have seen a great deal of growth and development in what I make since I’ve started working that much on my art.  I also like to come to gallery meetings and openings. Everyone is very talented, interesting, and enjoyable to be around!  I usually gallery sit once a week.  I work on coloring my metal pieces while gallery sitting and usually end up having some interesting conversations with our patrons!SF:  What are your needs as an artist in Rochester?  What would you like to see changed?
KK:  Rochester is chock full of artists because of our schools, universities and businesses.  We are an intelligent community who values our creative people.  I would like to see a commitment made to our school-aged children about the importance of all the arts and not reduce the budgets for these programs. I know when I was teaching, I made a point of structuring my art lessons so they allowed students to develop a voice through their art. I would often hear "I didn't know I could do this...or make that...or that I had it in me.”  While Math and Sciences are important for business, the arts are important for the soul. As far as my wish for artists in Rochester, it would be cool to have some kind of emerging artists show for artists who are working towards a professional art life, but are at the beginning of it, like me.
Freeform Menorah

Tabletop in progress

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