Art

Finding Trippy Beauty in Simplicity

Kate Wilson’s playful photographs turn everyday objects into kaleidoscopic works of art

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Each of Kate Wilson’s photographs contains a mystery to unravel. What initially look like abstract, colorful photo-realist prints are in fact close-ups of common, everyday items: flower buds, water bottles, wires, silverware, matches, taillights, insects – images Kate captures and plays with using software until they become unique artwork. The beholder can try to figure out which object is being depicted, or wonder how a series of irregular globes and intersecting lines could possibly be a bottle of Aquafina.

Kate’s work has been described as “Georgia O’Keefe meets Rorschach”: a comparison the Cranston-based artist finds flattering, since O’Keefe is one of her idols. As a child, her mother would bring her to the impressionist rooms at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where she loved to “get super close and notice all the colors in one brush stroke and think about how many years ago that person made that choice to put it there – then to step back and see that this seemingly insignificant stroke is really important and integral to a large piece.”

Kate’s art education, less extensive than other professional artists, consists of some childhood art classes, RISD pre-college, and later the graphic design program through RISD Continuing Education. As a schoolteacher and mother to a young family, she never expected to start a professional art career at age 44, but did know that she never wanted to be “the elementary schoolteacher ready to retire.” She looked into interior design but opted to take graphic design classes at RISD instead, where she “learned so much” and which laid the groundwork for her artistic career in many respects. She ran her own design firm for a few years, and people began noticing the quality of her photographic work.

“They said, ‘You gotta move on this.’ So I thought, I really love what I’m doing and playing with here – why not? Let’s see what happens.”
The word “play” arises frequently when Kate discusses her art. She makes her own rules as she goes, incorporates what she loves into her art and finds beauty within simplicity.

“When I’m with my camera, everything else just disappears,” she says. “Spending an hour with one blossom may sound crazy, but to see it from different sides in different lighting and really get to know it – that joy is what I can’t get enough of and wanted to share.” In a tough, often negative world, it’s almost Kate’s political stance: “There’s joy all around us. Look! Slow down, be curious and just be.”

Sometimes, Kate will hide tiny words inside her images; viewers can hunt for “Hope” or “Love” or “Create” inside the picture, adding a game and making the art interactive.

Her first solo exhibit, Twisting Reality, featured 26 pieces at Sprout RI on Valley Street through early July, and she will appear in their next two group shows. She was a stop on PVDFest’s Valley Arts District Maker Tour, won an award for a piece displayed at the VETS Auditorium, and has two pieces at the Providence Center for Photographic Arts through August 11.