Sacred Space, a realm of Student Leadership at The Seattle School, stewards events and rhythms throughout the year to invite the community to rest, wrestle, and play in relationship with God, ourselves, and each other. Part of this is curating the art galleries on the second and third floors of our building. Here, Kate Creech, first-year MA in Counseling Psychology student, shares about her exhibit, Salt Water Echoes, currently on display in the third floor gallery.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m originally from Texas, although most people say I don’t have an accent. I do, however, own a pair of sturdy cowboy boots that have seen a barn or two in their lifetime. So the Texan stereotype still lives on! I attended the University of North Texas where I studied studio art, creative writing, and sociology. After college I moved to New York City for two years to work with a Christian ministry. The first year I was able to be in their artist residency program where I shared a gritty little studio in Queens, NY with a few other artists. The second year I got to mentor art students at NYU, Parsons School of Design, and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).
How would you describe your work, both overall as an artist and in this particular collection?
My friend Lindsay Braman recently pointed out that it’s like landscapes filter through me and the art is the result. When I’m painting, my work primarily comes from an emotional place; it’s what I use to work through things that are happening in my life, almost like abstract visual journaling.
The Salt Water Echoes series is made up of work from 2014-2017. I’ve grown a lot in the middle of that time, but what hasn’t changed is how much my body needs to be connected with nature. Nature is a holding space for me; a place for me to sift through what’s happened in my life. The expressive atmospheric quality of the work creates a place for me to sit and reflect. That was especially true for this series in particular.
What voices or inspirations shape the work you do?
I’ve had the amazing opportunity to hear Makoto Fujimura speak on several occasions and to see his Golden Sea and the Four Holy Gospels exhibits in person. His work opened up my imagination again. I grew up in a culture that really separated the body, arts, and God from each other and to see him weave all of that together I felt like I was able to breathe again.
J.M.W. Turner’s work really speaks to me, especially his paintings of the open sea. I also really love Vincent Van Gogh. Reading Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh, which is a collection of letters written by him to his brother, really impacted me. His voice carries a lot of heartache that many artists and poets experience. And of course, nature probably has the biggest influence on my work currently.
At The Seattle School we talk a lot about the intersections between theology, psychology, and culture, believing that how we engage God and spirituality shapes how we interact with others and how we view the world around us. How do you see your work fitting into that conversation?
Painting helps me integrate where I’m at in my relationship with God to where my body and emotions are at currently. This series in particular was about specific stories that have challenged my beliefs, changed the trajectory of my life, and shifted how I interact with others. We all carry stories like that. I see my art as another way of naming, “this is what I see, because of where I have been.” And the nature of the work changes when my community interacts with it. As I’ve had conversations with people about it, the paintings are impacting me in a new way.
Related question—the work we do is never independent of the places in which we do it. How is your art shaped by or affected by its presence in this particular graduate school with red brick walls?
Even after only eight months here in Seattle and at The Seattle School I’ve seen my art change enormously, but another thing that has shifted is how I sit with my work in progress. I used to be easily frustrated when a project was not going the way I hoped it would. Now there is a lot more kindness and space for the actual creation of a piece and not just impatience for the final result. At least I’m trying to get closer to that mindset. The Seattle School has shown me that sometimes the beauty of the work is about the process and not necessarily the final piece.
When you imagine people engaging your art on our walls, what do you hope for them? Any inspiration, ideas, or questions you want folks to walk away with?
My hope is that when people step in front of a painting in this series that they would feel held by the work. I was thinking how often people are walking through the halls of the school with the weight of trauma or a difficult story close to the surface. I wanted to put up work that felt like a resting place. I hope the Salt Water Echoes series will invite people to sit and wrestle with questions they haven’t allowed themselves to ask yet.
If people would like to engage with more of my work they can find me at katecreechpaints on Instagram or katelyncreech.com.