Kathryn Combs "Quiet" 12" x 24" Digital Fine Art Print

Borough Gallery and Studio: Your photographs depict objects of comfort (a sink, an oven door, a bed), yet they’re rendered desolate, their functions mute.  Where did the inspiration to render them this way come from?

Kathryn Combs: In all honesty I don’t “choose” what to photograph, it’s more of a  happy accident I stumble upon.  When I say “choose” I mean that I’m not constructing these up in a studio, they are objects that are around me that I happen to find interesting enough to photograph.  I feel that the subconcious reasoning for the objects being rendered almost useless has the most to do with how my interactions changed with people over time.  These images ultimately are about me dealing with the emotional scarring I had left from when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the objects one could view as a metaphor for the people.  People who used to be sources of comfort changed once I was diagnosed and told them, my relationships with them either changed or ended entirely.  So, much like the sink or Christmas lights collecting dust, so did manyof my relationships with friends and family.

Kathryn Combs "Conflict" 12" x 24" Digital Fine Art Print

The reappearing image of the bed has the most to do with the nature of the underlying reasoning for the photographs – not only was it somewhere I spent a lot of time post-surgery, but it was also the place I contracted the disease which led to the cancer in the first place.  For me it was about a push/pull relationship: a space of comfort and a space where I also dealt with conflict and hid from what was happening.

BGS: Being diagnosed with cancer, or any series of trauma, often changes
the work of an artist.  Do you find your work has changed radically?

KC: I think that’s a tricky question.  Because it wasn’t like the type I dealt with was “life threatening” per say, it just left more emotional damage and future physical risks than anything.  I would say my work did change a lot though, it because much more introspective and about what I could learn about myself from making the work rather than making ac commentary on something outside myself.  I went from looking at others to looking at myself.  In terms of the actual product, going through all of that was good in a weird way.  It became a catalyst and gave my work focus.  The images themselves began to have a style that grouped them together.

BGS: That is a big change for an artist to go from external subjects to internal ones.  Did you also find yourself interested in different artists?  Did you find some guide that helped you achieve a new direction with your photography?

KC: I don’t know if my favorite artists or at least the ones I found to be the most inspiring changed at all.  I’ve always been a Rauschenberg, Warhol, Goldin kind of gal.   I’ve always been interested in artists who deal with a variety of media and subject matter.  However, a professor at RIT did have a huge influence on my work during the past year and a half.  He helped me discover what it was I was trying to say with my photography, and really helped me to narrow the focus of my work.  A lot of people have actually compared my work to his, saying they’re similar in many ways, which I find extremely flattering.

Kathryn Combs "Invitation" 10" x 20" Digital Fine Art Print

Also, I got really involved in psychology about three years ago, and I think that definitely had an influence on the work I was making.

BGS: The desire to own a home seems caught with the fear that home ownership can end up a financial/social trap.  Certainly this desire and fear conundrum is exacerbated by the housing bubble-bust, but what have you learned through your relationship to “home,” or of any desire mingled with fear of that desire?

KC: My relationship with the concept of home has gone through a lot of changes throughout the past few years.  In college I never felt like I had a home, I was always in between places and never truly settled.  Now that I’ve moved to Burlington and feel a little more settled, hopefully my art will reflect that.  My hope is that with a new sense of comfort will be reflected in my work and allow me to explore a lot more with my photography and try out new things.

However, I have always had a fear of being “too” settled.  I think that while having a home is something I’ve wanted since I was a little girl, the artist in me screams at that notion of settling down.  It’s a lot of push/pull that I think all artists deal with at heart.

For more information on Kathryn Combs go here. See her work in person at Borough until Friday, December 4th.

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