Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce Nothing Comes From Nothing, an exhibition of new ink on mylar drawings by San Francisco Bay Area artist Katina Huston. Huston’s primary subject over the past decade has been shadows cast by objects—from bicycle wheels to musical instruments, glassware, and now, skeletons—hung from the studio ceiling. By casting light through these objects and drawing from their projection, Huston channels energy from a zipping bicycle, ascending scales, sparkling crystal, and the weightiness of bone “without actually naming that experience.” Her handling compels the viewer into familiar objects stretched and distended out of visual recognition.
Because skeletons are loaded with meaning, there is the potential to misread Huston’s drawings as morbid or Jerry Garcia-esque. Huston, however, is more concerned with processes of history and memory on physical objects, many of which carry the patina of their previous owner’s experiences. When Huston was young, her father organized some of the first post-war underwater archeology expeditions. Following his death, her childhood home was littered with ephemera both ancient and less so: Etruscan fibulae mingled with a Stanford yearbook from 1928 while a Roman short sword made an unexpected bedfellow with bank books from Iowa. In this way, the skeleton is a placeholder for the presence of others passed in our day-to-day lives. It figures less as momento mori, that is, a warning that the viewer’s end is not far off, but a friendly reminder of all the feet that have walked this path. Lively foliage overlays and sometimes submerges the figures, complicating the scene and forcing the viewer to choose between iconographies.
Unlike the bicycle and instrument drawings, many of Huston’s skeleton drawings offer a single skeletal element as opposed to multiple overlapping forms. In these works, the figure interlaces with the unexpectedly vibrant shadows of flora and fauna. Swatches of colorful, patterned fabrics are rendered directly from the material to ground the shadowy contours of the skeletons and plant life. Diverse textures and densities play off each other, pushing some objects to the fore while occluding others. Huston explains:
“I have a choice. Do I want something to push against the shadows, or run over it? This choice either gives weight to the thing, or erases it. In the end, all we have are resolutions. Every time I make a decision, I force the viewer to let go of something and grab something else. The viewer chooses how these pieces resolve in the eye.”
In Taxonomy 1 (2013), for instance, a colorless, abstracted ribcage rendered in India ink stretches across a sheet of mylar. The swirling and pooling inks further abstract the form, which appears fluid despite being bone dry. Pine branches in metallic silver wash through and over the bones, creating a visual tension that challenges the viewer to make sense of two entities of equal color value. Finally, blue and grey plaid fabrics sit on the page in opaque acrylic ink as things-in-themselves, defining and reinforcing the nearly colorless ribs that extend out to the edges of the composition. This vast range of textures, values, colors, tones, and light, play across Huston’s sometimes very large drawings to solicit engaged looking from the viewer. “As in life, each new piece of information you learn about the world somehow undermines a belief you already held,” Huston explains, “my drawings mimic this process and push the viewer to recognize their own process in thinking.”
Katina Huston was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She earned her B.A. in History of Fine Arts from New York University followed by her M.F.A. from Mills College, Oakland. In addition to exhibiting both nationally and internationally, Huston’s work can be found in the permanent collection of the Achenbach Collection at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young & Legion of Honor; the Yale University Art Gallery; and Wynn Casino, Las Vegas.