Artist Kate Klingbeil, a Detroit native, has seen it all, well has at least been coast to coast and seen a hell of a lot at least. Now residing in Oakland she seems to have found herself there, and that can only mean great things when it comes to her work. Provocative, daring unabridged and so awesome to look at, her pieces have a way of just taking your consciousness for a ride. Our contributor/writer Carolin Meyer recently caught up with her and had the chance to shoot the shit on everything from her love of painting nudity to her spirit animal.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –  { ARTIST INTERVIEW : KATE BLINGBEIL  } By Carolin Meyer

Where are you from? Where do you live?

I was born outside of Detroit but spent most of my important years growing up in a suburb of Milwaukee, WI. I moved to Oakland, CA when I was 18 to get my BFA at California College of the Arts where I studied traditional printmaking and I have lived there ever since. It’s been 8 years now, the longest I’ve been anywhere. I’m currently traveling on the east coast between New Jersey and New York. 

Have you always wanted to become an artist? 

When I was younger I basically had three dreams- to become a professional equestrian, a veterinarian, or an artist. I think I made the decision when I was in high school that I would become an artist. Someone I respect once told me that I couldn’t do anything else. It might be a curse, but it’s the only profession that I’m going to be happy doing. 

Which artist are you inspired by/ who do you like?

I look at a lot of artists on the internet. There’s so many. I love Italian Renaissance painting for its lavish detail and reverence for divine geometry, Hieronymus Bosch, Lucas Cranach The Elder & Bruegel for their twisted minds, Symbolist artists celebrating spirituality and dreams like Edvard Munch & James Ensor. I love Manet, Lautrec, and advertising poster art from France in the early 1900‘s and anything that is illusionary or has hidden messages. One of my favorite activities is going to a museum and spending most of the time copying an old master. You really learn about the subtleties when you try to replicate someone else’s painting. 

Contemporary artists that I love include Marlene Dumas, Cecily Brown, Lisa Yuskavage,  Jamian Juliano-Villani, Katherine Bradford, Allison Schulnik, Emma Webster, Eva O’Leary, Helen O’Leary, Michael Olivo and Grace Lannon. I just learned about an artist named Jordan Kasey and I’m mesmerized, she’s so good with light. I tend to like expressive work over orderly, labored painting. I want to see the artist’s hand. 

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Are you a fan of nudity? Why do you paint nudes mostly?

I love to paint folds, fat poking out where a limb bends, round butts and bodies that have a weight. I don’t like to paint straight lines, they just aren’t sexy or interesting to me. I like meandering lines and round shapes. Straight lines are predictable. I want to be seduced by the painting I’m making. 

Someone can feel so vulnerable, uncomfortable, or at peace being nude. When we are nude we are mostly stripped of material signifiers and the way bodies interact with each other becomes more animalistic or natural. Clothes get in the way. I’m interested in body language and non-verbal communication, how people fit together, emotions, insecurities, confidence, sex and secrets, and the nude body is the best way I know how to explore that right now. 

Did you go to art school or what did you do after having finished school?

I went to art school at CCA (California College of the Arts) and graduated in 2012. After school I knew it was important to keep the momentum. I dug into printmaking at a beautiful printshop in Berkeley, CA called Kala Art Institute and made it a priority to keep making work. I think without the work I would have felt pretty shell shocked after graduation.

About a year after graduation I moved into a storefront space in Oakland and started a project space called Turpentine Gallery. I wanted to provide an exhibition space for the incredible work that my friends were making and not lose the community that we had at school, while trying to expand it to include more people. Up until very recently I held various day jobs- washing dishes, making coffee, assisting artists, working at an animation startup, and selling and restoring vintage advertising posters. I tried to choose jobs that I could pull some sort of inspiration from. Dishwashing was pretty meditative but I’m never doing that again. 


What is your spirit animal?

I have the brain of a hummingbird and the body of a duck. 

Which painting is your favorite? (can be one of yours or by someone else)

I love this painting called Neighboring Gardens by Michael Olivo that he just gifted me. I cried, I love it so much. Everyone is watching her but she’s not paying attention, she’s looking to the next garden. 

How are you holding up living from being an artist?

I don’t know, that changes daily. Sometimes I feel like I need to get a job to support my art so that I don’t have to rely on selling the things I make, and other times I feel that getting another job is a waste of my time. It’s not easy. Sometimes you sell a painting or get a freelance gig and sometimes you don’t. I’m determined to make it work. When things get really hard it seems that the universe swoops in to save me.

What advice do you have for young artists to make it?

Well, I haven’t “made it” yet so that’s a tough question, but I suspect that young artists trying to make it should prioritize studio time over most everything else and that actually making work is pretty important. Don’t be afraid to share it too. People are voyeuristic and want to peek inside you brain. Also, get the book Art/Work. It’s answered a lot of the questions that I had about navigating the art world that they should have taught in art school but didn’t.

See more of Kate Klingbeil’s work here:  INSTAGRAM

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