Artist profile: Kate Wagner 

click to enlarge Artist Kate Wagner. - STEPHEN SIMONETTO

To describe Kate Wagner as a mixed-media action painter would, well, fall short on the particulars.

"Art's my form of exercise," Wagner says. "If it's not in arms' reach then I won't use it.... I hate paying bills so I've used IPL bills... I'll shred it and get the joy of shredding it and repurpose it into a painting, so it goes from shitty to pretty."

You may have seen Wagner's work in the Recycled & Reclaimed show at the Jazz Kitchen in March 2011. Or you may have seen her the following month at Luxe 218, in the Murphy Art Center, where she had her first solo show the following month. She also had a booth at the Oranje art and music expo for her fourth year running this past Sept. 17.

Not only does Wagner paint, but she makes jewelry — and just about anything else that occurs to her — while staying up way after most everybody else in Indy has gone to bed. "I'm lucky to be asleep between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.," she says.

"All my jewelry is made of junk mail and phonebook pages. Phone books are ideal for many ladies accessories — bracelets, headbands etcetera," she says.

But she also uses more conventional mediums, such as acrylic, on her canvases. And then she uses Mod Podge (a combination glue, seal and finish) for attaching paper to her canvases. The paper that she uses is no ordinary paper.

"I love the odd look of surprise when I tell people I've used toilet paper to create a dress of a person on the canvas."

click to enlarge Work by Kate Wagner.
  • Work by Kate Wagner.

But there's more than clever decoupage going on in her work. A number of her paintings of female figures are completely engulfed by the patterns of color that flow from the background into the portraiture itself. And the colors do flow all around as if in a kaleidoscope that you're turning while in a state of reverie. A state of reverie is where the female figure in profile in her painting "Infinite" seems to be, with her eyes closed, as blues and purples and white bubbles swirl all around her.

Wagner's paintings are pretty, sure. But when you see a red bird perched on a branch in front of a circular blue river sort of thing swirling in a florescent sky — as in a painting in her "April Series," — you might reach for other adjectives to describe her work.

"I make a nest, surrounded by materials and canvas," says Wagner, about her art-making at home. You may wonder if the bird in her painting is a representation of Wagner herself. And it seems that she might have been on some sort of trip (a flight of the imagination, as it were) when composing these works. There is, after all, a certain hypnotic power that many of her paintings possess.

And then, when you think of her frenetic nighttime activity, combined with her equally active day job as the Studio Development Coordinator at Outside the Box — where she works on art projects with developmentally-disabled adults — you may wonder about her wellspring of creativity, her source of inspiration.

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