Meet One of the Small Works Project Artists: Kara Patrowicz

Kara Patrowicz is one of twelve artists selected as a Gallery 263 Small Works Project artist. This project presents artwork in flat files at the gallery and on our website for the duration of one year. All artists are based in Massachusetts. Visit Kara’s Small Works Project page to see more of her work.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

I’m originally from New York and moved to Boston for college, and have stuck around (for the most part) ever since. I studied Painting as an undergrad at Boston University and Post-Bacc at Brandeis, then explored painting and fibers during my M.F.A at MassArt. I also spent a year in Dublin, Ireland on a Fulbright Grant in Painting. I now live in Maynard, about an hour west of Boston, with my husband and two-year-old son. Currently I’m a full-time mom and exploring the intersection of motherhood and art-making, and working through the joys and struggles of that combination.

What kind of art do you make?

I work in mixed-media, combining fiber and painting techniques to create works that are primarily two-dimensional with a painterly touch. In the fiber world, the broad term for this interdisciplinary field is “surface design.” In some works I use felting methods to create pieces entirely with wool, in others I layer watercolor, embroidery and needle felting on vintage fabrics.

What concepts does your art explore?

I’m interested in art-making as a form of active contemplation and seeking the sublime among the routine, “mundane” experiences that I encounter in the domestic sphere and in my role as a mother. The restorative, embodying aspects of blending tactile fiber and paint materials are also central to my work. Through subjects like weathered chairs, iPad screens and ultrasound imagery, my work hints at the interplay of absence and presence, memory and experience in fundamental human relationships.

Can you tell us about the work you have on view in your flat file drawer at the gallery?

The pieces in my flat file are “felt paintings” – they are made completely with wool felting processes, but I think of them as paintings as I create them. The subjects are taken from my experience of daily life, from my son playing with blocks to a favorite reading chair. The piece “Apology Eggs” refers to my husband’s habit of making me breakfast the morning after an argument – a simple, sweet gesture that helps to clear the air.

Where do you make your work? 

I have an art studio at ArtSpace Maynard, a converted school building in the town where I live. I share a space with two other artists and use the slop sinks upstairs for felting. I also have a “studio kit” to make small works at home.

What are your favorite materials to use? Most unusual? 

My favorite material right now is wool, as I’ve been diving into felting. But I also love embroidery and watercolor and combining all of these media. During the pandemic I’ve been feeling especially “frazzled” and for me, embroidery requires a very clear head. Felting feels more akin to gestural painting which makes it especially freeing and fun to work with.

What historical and contemporary artists inspire you?

There’s so many that it’s hard to narrow down! I often think of the Nabis group – Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis – as well as Cassatt and Degas, particularly their pastels and prints/monotypes. I find a lot of inspiration among contemporary female artists working with fibers (or in reference to them), like Cécile Davidovici, Alyssa Ackerman, and Barbara Campbell Thomas. The community that has grown around Kaylan Buteyn’s “Artist/Mother” podcast has also been really exciting to follow.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

I always enjoyed drawing as a kid, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started taking it more seriously. Through group art lessons I discovered a deep love of making and the act of painting. I also did a high school internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and visiting the collections during off-hours convinced me to pursue this beautiful (and difficult!) path.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

This summer I have a solo exhibit in the Wayside Gallery at Fruitlands Museum, on view through August 22nd. The title is “Homebound” and many of the works explore themes of domesticity and parenthood during the experience of quarantine. More info can be found on my website and hours and admission here.

Additionally, I’ve been selected as a Finalist in Crafts for the Mass Cultural Council 2021 Artist Fellowships Program. Learn more here.