Jumping on the phone with Kit Porter was like catching up with a long-lost sister. Sharing our experiences of life (with boys running around in the background), there was an instant familiarity grounded in a collective, deep-rooted love for art. For years, I have been drawn to the layers of texture, the warm, steel gray tones, and cotton candy sky present in Kit’s work -each element and layer taking on a new meaning with exposure to the vision behind her art.
Currently living in Houston, TX, but with the Carolinas always in her heart, this southern girl has been passionate about art for as long as she can remember. Playing and creating seems to be a part of Kit’s DNA, leading her to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of the South. Like many artists working in the intricately webbed world of artists, galleries, museums, curators and collectors, Kit put her art to the side for a while, questioning her talent and giving in to the shadow challenging her confidence. But along the way, something subtly shifted within Kit or maybe it was a sudden change (she can’t quite remember), but once she decided to put her art first, she never looked back.
With her studio as her playground and office, Kit incorporates painting into her daily practice. Sometimes it’s grabbing a pencil and paper to jot down an idea or sketch an image while her kids crash toy cars into one another. But most days, Kit finds the time to create when the children are safely tucked in bed and the sun is casting its last shadows. As Kit crosses the threshold into her studio, she sheds the responsibilities of the daylight hours and embraces the calm. Along with the quiet hum of night, Kit works quickly and intensely, hours feeling like minutes. Rarely even sipping the water that she carried through the door, Kit is fully immersed in her work – mixing paint, layering materials, and putting the pieces of her puzzle together to create the just right story.
Using found marine debris as a key material in all her work, Kit carefully positions each object to be both present and blended in her art - almost obsolete to the eye, seamlessly joined with the paint, yet a profound statement. In Kit’s words, “These fragments, represent our possessions, our memories, what is significant one moment and forgotten the next. They represent what we wanted, what we received, what we possessed, what we loved, what we used, what we discarded, what we broke, what we lost, and what we forgot. They are what is left over, all that remains.”. Looking at Kit’s work, you can see how each fragment becomes an extension of our own experience, guiding us towards the future without forgetting the past. Each piece of art has as much of a soul as it does rich texture and beautiful color.
Kit’s passion for the environment is at the center of who she is and the work she creates. Donating 5% of sales to support marine conservation, Kit hopes that in addition to offering a statement about how we choose to treat the environment, her paintings will serve as a reminder to “be grateful of what we have, mindful of how we treat it, and aware of what we will leave behind in ALL areas of our lives”.
It is a unique gift to bear witness to someone who is coming into their own – someone who is confident with the work they are creating – someone who appreciates the evolution and is open to where the journey will take her – and I am excited to see what the future holds for Kit Porter.
See below for more our conversation and follow Kit on instagram @kitporterstudios
And Richmonders, get excited - Kit will be coming to RVA in March 2019 for a painting experience exclusively through art for the home. Follow us on Instagram for more details.
You can find some of Kit's amazing art right here! These pieces will be available for the month of November.
When did your journey into art begin?
I have always been a creator. My first endeavor into selling my art was as a child. When other kids set up lemonade stands, I would attempt to sell my latest creations. I specifically remember setting up a table in front of my house with art for sale: hairclips made from poptops and puzzle pieces. From elementary through high school my art teachers were so supportive, and instrumental in my decision to pursue art seriously.
How has your work evolved over the past couple of years?
I am SO glad you asked this! The past year has brought quite an interesting evolution to my work. I have been interpreting the coastal landscape for quite some time, but about a year ago my work took a significant shift.
I had been working on a series of aerial landscape paintings of the Gulf coast, after relocating to Houston. I have always enjoyed working with mixed media, so I went to the beach to collect materials for my work. My intention was to use a bit of sand, maybe some scraps of rope, wood, etc...textures I associated with the coastal environment. However, upon arriving to the beach I found a beach simply littered. As I poked my way through the debris, searching for the perfect texture to add into my paintings, I could not help but turn my artistic search into a full-blown beach cleanup. Filling buckets with plastic bottles, grocery bags, straws, cigarettes, and innumerable fragments of plastic, I left feeling frustrated, discouraged, and quite frankly disgusted. The majority of what I collected went into the recycling bin, much of it had to be thrown in the trash, but there were some fragments that held the textural quality I was looking for. I cleaned them and brought them into my studio, where I incorporated them into my landscape paintings.
As the weeks passed, I made some lovely landscapes utilizing some of the debris. They evoked both the beauty and destruction of the coastal landscape, however upon each return to the studio, I began to question why I was incorporating these pieces of debris back INTO the landscape from which they had just been removed? I did not want to paint littered landscapes, and I did not want to simply paint landscapes. The process of removing marine debris had become so instrumental to my work, but I wasn’t sure how to translate it artistically.
Then the shift occurred.
One day, during a cleanup, I found what looked like a piece of a broken record. There was something about this single item that intrigued me. I had been so focused on whether the items I was picking up could be used in my artwork, recycled, or reused. Finding this record caused an immediate shift in my mindset from thinking about the future of these items, to thinking about their past. Where did it come from? Who did it belong to? Was it intentionally thrown out? Did someone lose it? And perhaps most curious of all: What was it when it was complete? As these questions ran through my head, I realized how much conceptual weight was in each of the items I was collecting. Each had a story, each had a past I would never fully know.
Each fragment of marine debris represents something so much larger than I initially sought.
And so, I began to paint them on a simple white background, devoid of landscape.
What inspires you? What influences your work?
There is an obvious environmental component to my work. I have lived by the coast for most of my life. It brings me peace, tranquility and inspiration. It is because of my concern for the state of our coastal ecosystem and the affected marine life that I feel passionate about keeping our beaches and oceans clean. It is estimated that between 5.3 million and 14 million tons of unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the ocean…EACH YEAR. And is estimates for how long plastic endures range from 450 years to forever.
So, unless picked up, the fragments we leave behind are slated to be our future fossils. I hope my work can influence people to be mindful about our impact. Not only our environmental impact, but the lasting impact each of us can have on one another. As an artist, I hope to give some significance to broken, lost, discarded, and forgotten fragments...physical and conceptual.
Where are you headed? Where do you want to be in two years?
I currently donate 5% of my sales to support marine conservation. I hope that within 2 years I will have the opportunity to work with an environmental organization or company on a much larger scale and be able to use my art as a way to increase awareness and support for marine conservation efforts. I hope that through my art I could have a much bigger impact than what I am providing now. If anyone wants to collaborate, please let me know!
Do you collect art? What is a favorite piece of yours?
Yes, I am an avid collector!!
It is so hard for me to even narrow down my collection to a single favorite piece. From the textural delight of fabric collages by Karin Olah @karinolah, to a whimsical Mondrian-style cow painting by Nathan Durfee @nathandurfee; from the large scale black and white photography by Ben Ham @benhamgallery to a watercolor landscape by my husband’s prolific 94 year old grandmother; my collection is varied in style, medium and technique.
I love them all so much!
My most recent acquisition is a flirty little llama painting by my dear friend, and talented artist, Caroline Swetenberg @carolineswetenberg.
Check out more of Kit's work at www.kitporterstudios.com and at my favorite online collective Well+Wonder.
cred: Sarah Arvidsson