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Kate Kretz – Art and Cake

March 13, 2024 - Art

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Kate ripping stars out in front of the Trump White House, August 2020 (photo by Greg Staley).

What does a day in your art practice look like?

I teach two afternoons a week. On the other days, when I am in the studio, I would spend 1-2 hours researching, answering emails and having coffee in my lair, and the rest of the time physically working on projects. For the past year and a half, though, I have been writing and editing my first book, called Art From Your Core: A Holistic Guide to Visual Voice. It comes out soon, so I look forward to getting back into the studio. I have a lot of ideas built up, and to be honest, it has been difficult to navigate Trump’s omnipresence without chanelling my rage and frustration into studio work.

What would life be like without art?

Impossible.I use making to process what is happening in the world. It allows me to feel like I am doing SOMETHING to try and fix things… and that keeps me sane. Without art, I would have another, worse addiction, or I would not be here at all.

Kate with her book at Intellect Books booth/CAA (photo by James Campbell). Order here

What is the hardest part of creating your art? Well, right-wing extremist threats are occasionally an issue, but the research is a more constant difficulty. I would be a much happier person if I was not driven to try and understand some of the horrors that men have wrought. In the process, I have seen some things I wish I could unsee. It has become necessary to take breaks from the research to maintain my mental health.

What inspires you?

Brave people who fight against injustice, and speak truth to power. Anyone anywhere who is fighting bullies; in the home, on the playground, in the workplace, in the courts, and in the world at large.

What advice would you give your younger self?

  • You don’t have to be perfect at everything.
  • Do not care what anybody thinks of you.
  • Trust your intuition.
  • You are brilliant, don’t doubt yourself.
  • Art is not a meritocracy.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

My undergraduate mentor, Charles Eldred, used to tell me that there are lots of distractions in an art career, and I should remember “The ART is the thing… it’s all that matters.”

Kate with Hate Hat at San Francisco pop-up (photo by DeWitt Cheng).

If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?

It WOULD be a meritocracy. The artists would be the power players, the way that actors wield power in Hollywood. All the validation and press would be about the power of the work, instead of the money used to own and control that work. It would not cost so much to play the game, in terms of both capital and integrity. The art itself would be considered a public good, made available and not hoarded by the wealthy.

Kate signing Hate Hat posters in San Francisco pop-up (photo by Kevin Maher).

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

I have never had a problem staying interested in my work. My issue is having too many ideas, and not enough time to execute them. They are incessantly tugging at my sleeve, screaming for attention, trying to lure me away from all the boring things I am required to do.

If you had the chance to live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose? and why?

I would take a chance on living in the future. I would hope that people would have evolved to value women’s life experiences, LGBTQ, POC, and poor people’s life experiences expressed through their art. I have faith that artists will figure out a way to become more self-empowered.

Kate and “The Appetites of Oligarchs” at The Peeler Art Center, 2022 (photo by Margaret Leninger).

How has personal experience influenced your creativity?

Becoming a mother has made me a much stronger artist. It made my work braver and more political. Loving someone else more than myself has turned up the volume in my work, because I feel a need to affect the world that she will live in.

What do you wish to accomplish with your art?

I hope to call attention to important injustices that others may overlook, and ultimately, to nudge civilization in the right direction.

“Reparation: Where Our Greatness Lies, 2019 – 2022, 57 x 112”, cotton U.S. flag, thread. All the machine-embroidered white stars ripped out and replaced with hand-embroidered stars representing all the melanin scale skin tones of U.S. citizens.” (photo: Greg Staley)


What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?

  • Read my book (really! It’s all in there).
  • The art world is not fair, and it owes you nothing, no matter how talented you are, how hard you work, or what you sacrifice.
  • Make work for yourself.
  • Cultivate your Art Life, which will only sometimes overlap with the “art world”.
  • It is worthwhile to take the time to discover and develop your core, and use it to guide you in your practice. There are so many ways that you can be blown off course, make a bunch of wrong turns, and find yourself far from where you need to be. Most artists are not just executing one “good idea” after another, they are carrying out a sustained investigation through their lifetime, driven by that core, and it morphs and grows along with them. You can’t escape the core: face it now, or put it off, waste time, and meet it later.
“Hate Hat,” 2019-2021, deconstructed MAGA hats, cotton, thread, 28 x 9 x 12″, edition of 3 & AP. Manuel De Santaren collection, two remaining.

How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?

It depends upon the piece. Some come out fully formed, but most require exploration and gestation to become more layered and reach maximum potency. I have a process I call “following the threads,” where I do a kind of research, guided by intuition. I also remain very open to the universe, watching for serendipitous signs around me. I always have several pieces percolating on the back burners, and eventually one screams out loudest, demanding to be realized now.

“Portrait of A Mass Shooter,” 2017, 20 x 16″, inkjet print of 20 superimposed mass shooter portraits on metal, edition of 3.

Order her book here
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