Journal: Kit Porter: Thumbnail

Where are you from and where do you reside?

I have lived by the coast nearly all of my life. I grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and after bouncing around for many years, have landed in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Describe a typical day in the studio for you.

I have two types of studio days, which I could describe as crescendo days and diminuendo days. On a crescendo day, I start new work and everything is buzzing. The music is loud and I am on the move - lots of energy in my body and on the canvas. I like to begin 3 to 4 large canvases at a time, laying them on the ground and working from the aerial perspective. I work on them simultaneously, bouncing from one to another as the color choices in each work inform the decision in the next. There is a lot of feeling, and not a lot of thinking. I am seeking balance through color and overall composition, and not worrying about the finished piece.

On a diminuendo day, I take it slow. Every brushstroke is calculated. This is the quiet, contemplative part of my process, where technique is everything. I keep the music low and I kneel down so my whole body is close to the canvas. With a small brush I begin carving away at each shape I find in front of me. I let trust and technique guide me, knowing that the work I am doing will reveal the most important fragments of the work I have previously created.

What necessities do you require when making your art (radio, coffee, specific brushes etc.)?

Brushes that vary in shape and size, and glass jam jars; I exclusively mix paints in them and work out of them.

Journal: Kit Porter: Gallery
Journal: Kit Porter: Gallery

How do you incorporate chance in your creative process?

Chance and trust go hand in hand in my creative process. Although my finished paintings are covered with hard edges, I do not plan the placement of each shape. My paintings begin with expressive paint application, seeking a balance in overall color and composition. There are always unexpected things that happen, which I embrace. Once a balanced underpainting has been achieved, the more technical part of my work begins. I stop looking at the “big picture” and start focusing on the pieces. This is where trust takes over and I give myself to my practice.

How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?

As my work has progressed and unfolded, I have discovered the thread that ties my work togetherthe impact that time and environment can have on the physical world.

From paintings of aerial landscapes that observe the way water carves through a land mass, to a series of marine debris paintings that examine the way an object left by the sea is broken down as a result of its environment, I’ve refined my painting technique to mimic a process similar to erosion. I am currently applying this technique to objects that are more delicate and fragile, such as leaves and flowers, to further explore the ephemerality of nature. By painting a subject that is associated with life and growth, I am able to demonstrate the fragility of life, and the way I see the world – shaped by time and the environment.

I am preparing myself for a potential new shift in my work in the coming months, as I am confronted by the fragility of my own life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2020, and am currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment. How this life changing experience will reveal itself in my work I am not certain, but I will continue to follow the flow, as I strive to push the conceptual content of my work deeper.

From paintings of aerial landscapes that observe the way water carves through a land mass, to a series of marine debris paintings that examine the way an object left by the sea is broken down, I’ve refined my painting technique to mimic a process similar to erosion.

Kit Porter

Your paint handling gives your forms the appearance of being softened or weathered by some external force. Can you expand upon how this relationship between form and content speaks to your interest in time and the environment?

In 2018 my work was focused on the environmental issue of marine debris. I gathered small pieces of plastic that washed up on local beaches, and became increasingly fascinated by their shapes. As I studied these fragments, and made paintings of them, I became acutely aware of the way they had broken down - some chipped away due to the force of the waves, others softened by continual rubbing against the sand. Each tiny piece of plastic was a smaller, broken down version of what it used to be, taking on a new shape and form as a direct result of its environment – water, sand – and time. I noticed that I could achieve this same quality in my paintings by handling my paint differently than I had previously. If I used paint as an external force around my subject, I could create a new language that communicated what so deeply fascinated me. I use this technique, which I refer to as “diminution”, as I continue to explore new subjects in my work.

In your work the ephemerality of nature is used as a metaphor for the fragility of life. How did you decide to embark on this body of work?

Once I realized my process alone could communicate fragility, I wondered if it would be effective when applied to subjects other than marine debris. Although I had never been interested in painting still lifes, I spent more than a year painting flowers in a vase, and found my conceptual practice deepened as my artistic language refined. The concept that all life (including my own) is shaped over time as a result of the environment in which it inhabits, becomes more important to me each day.

During the pandemic there has been a renewed interest in spending time in nature. As someone who has always spent a lot of time in nature, have you seen your relationship to nature change in any way?

I have always turned to nature as a place to go to get out of my own head. There is something about standing in front of the ocean, looking out to the vast horizon that puts a lot of things in perspective. The most difficult part of the pandemic personally has been a lost sense of connectivity – life just feels different without hugs and gatherings. However, when I cannot be with people, I will happily take being with Earth. I find comfort in the rhythmic force of nature.

Journal: Kit Porter: Gallery
Journal: Kit Porter: Gallery

Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?

I have an incredible network of working artists around the world that inspire me. Specifically, there are seven women artists with whom I communicate daily as we all navigate our careers in the art world. We have created a safe space to speak openly about our challenges, and celebrate our wins, and I am so grateful to them for their constant support and inspiration.

Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?

As a child, without hesitation, I would always tell people that my favorite painting was Starry Night. While I wish I could give credit to the teacher, friend or family member that brought this work to my attention, I cannot remember the first time I saw it. What I can remember is the life changing moment of seeing Starry Night in person for the first time when I was 11 years old. While standing in front of the very painting I had loved for so many years, I remember having this lightbulb moment that Vincent Van Gogh himself had applied each stroke of paint to the (once blank) canvas in front of me. I was blown away thinking about his presence, and it changed my perspective of looking at art in an instant. For this reason, I am an emotional basket case of a gallery-goer, all consumed by the dedication of each artist who spends their life driven by creation.

Is there any artwork on display in your home/studio?

I directed an art gallery for several years after graduating from college, and during that time always put a little portion of my paycheck toward acquisitions. I was able to acquire many pieces by artists I respected and admired, and I love them all to this day

Outside of art and artists what/who inspires you?

Music has always been an inspiration to me. During the pandemic I was particularly moved by The Beacon Jams, a series of brilliant performances by Trey Anastasio broadcasted virtually every week for 8 weeks from the Beacon Theatre in New York.