We found Katie Bruce one day when she showed up in our Instagram Feed, and we immediately fell in love with her work.
Katie Bruce is an artist in the disciplines of printmaking, embroidery, and sculpting. She’s interested in the gestures we collectively perform without understanding their implications. Whether reaching towards a person or object that has caused us to feel something; or in how we walk the same path until our daily tread is visible. Motions performed without entirely conscious intention.
Most recently, Katie’s pursuit of understanding the body’s interactions with the world has turned internal. Investigating her own somatic experience of anxiety has been a process of relinquishing her mind’s narrative of external stimuli and tuning into what her body feels. The translation between feeling and visualizing has also provoked a clarity when it comes to her speaking, and the dialogue of works she is currently pursuing is the beginning of an alternative platform for discussions surrounding mental health in the arts.
Interview with Katie Bruce
MP: Tell us a little bit about your creative life and the art that you create.
KB: In my creative life, I’ve taught classes and workshops but for the most part, I make. Until fairly recently, I struggled with calling myself an ‘artist,’ but was happy with the label ‘image maker’. Now I realize that my work is doing more than that — more than being image — and that there is a social and emotional responsibility in being an artist that is implicitly denied in calling oneself ‘image maker.’
MP: How do you relate to mental health and wellness? Does this factor into your creative process?
KB: Art has always been a space for me to get lost, to step outside of myself, lose time in. A decade ago, I definitely used my practice as escapism, but have really come into owning my experiences and harnessing the honesty in admitting there are struggles: that I am not a monolith outside of emotion and reaction. I struggle most openly with anxiety. Although it hasn’t yet been two years since an official diagnosis, I can trace its presence through out much of my adult and teenage life.
Anxiety on a daily level manifests as mentally pacing around conversations and interactions that ended hours, days ago; repeating what I could have said versus what I did say; whether or not I slighted my company unintentionally (regardless of evidence) and how to amend this in future interactions; rehearsing past events and potential future ones. It embodies as experiencing occasional pain when breathing, mental and physical exhaustion, pits and knots throughout my torso, and as silence or a fear of misspeaking. I used to get lost in beading, stitching, in carefully aligning photographic images digitally, just to coexist in a headspace that proved difficult to remove myself from entirely. In this way, embroidery has been both an expression of and coping mechanism to my anxiety longer than I have had the language to put to it.When I got my hands into print media, I found a new space where being methodical and repetitive was useful and encouraged — so it’s not a wonder that print was where I found the first safe space to be explicit about my mental health.I would be lying to say that there aren’t days I don’t struggle, in making and in functioning. But for the most part, I’ve found ways to gently get myself to start the work each day, and respect when I’ve either pushed myself to a natural limit or have to sit out. Being okay with not producing is important to the philosophy with which I make art.
MP: What part of you leads the creative self? How do you experience the mind, body, soul connectivity? Can you explain how it looks and feels?
KB: Each project is led by a sensibility to foster empathy and an awareness to our interactions outside of the art encounter. While process lends heavily to many of my projects, what the content boils down to is being vulnerable with myself, and intention differs depending on what I’m trying to point attention to: emotional vulnerably (‘within reach; out of touch’), bodily vulnerability (‘untitled’ embroidery series, ‘cheir ourgia’) or mental vulnerability (my work in progress on anxiety). With my current project in embroidery and intaglio, it is important for me to listen to my body while only hearing my mind — letting it run while trying to stay grounded within physical sensation and sorting out (without judgement) what feeling this way looks like. When I can balance this, I make the most connective images.
This kind of shifted listening takes place in the creation of other projects that aren’t as personal, and letting changes happen from plan to completion intuitively is part of understanding my process and voice. It’s hard to say if my work would be “better” or “different” without anxiety giving constant background static because it has always been present in varying capacities. I wouldn’t be as driven to make the images I do currently as there wouldn’t be the struggle elsewhere to connect instantly and unapologetically. Therein lies my practice: you needn’t know what I want to say to understand which emotions, intentions inform a piece.
MP: Where can we see your work? Do you have any upcoming shows?
KB: I’ve got two upcoming group shows at Walnut Contemporary Gallery in Toronto in May (photographs) and June (textiles), am part of a photographic retrospective happening in September, in Lethbridge Alberta, and a new body of printed works being made for a two person show in Calgary, Alberta next January. I sell for the most part through myself at katiembruce.carbonmade.com and Walnut Contemporary.
You can also find Katie Bruce on Instagram @gentlebruise and on Twitter @gentlebruise
This post was created with the help of Grammarly.