Go Deeper

Artist Kim Reid on WetLand

Posted September 12th, 2014

kim reidKim Reid is an artist, professor, and curator at the Sweatshop Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. From August 22 to September 6, she has been an artist-in-residence on WetLand, Mary Mattingly’s floating barge, which currently serves as a living space, performance area, greenhouse, and symbol of environmental disaster. Below, she discusses the importance of community spaces and how place influences her creative process.

How did you hear about WetLand? What inspired you to want to take up residence?
Mary and I met when she came to Omaha to create and install her Flock Houses at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. I felt an immediate connection with her and the art. I was very fascinated and wanted to understand her working process. The bundles and images she uses in her work were familiar to me. One important moment in my interaction with Mary was that we had both traveled in the Philippines. This shared but separate experience was apparent in her process and imagery. The mass migration from country to city had people living on every inch of space, including dumps and wastewater. After working on the design/build portion of the Flock House project and spending time with Mary, she invited me to WetLand. Alternative, hand-built shelters and transient ways [of living] have always captivated me and I feel that WetLand will be an interesting transmission of these ideas.

As an artist, teacher, and curator, how do you balance the different parts of your professional life? How do they influence each other?
Balancing my life as an artist, teacher and curator is a bit like running back and forth on a seesaw. Teaching allows me to advocate and encourage people in their strengths, curating helps engage the community, and making art give my voice a place. They create a holistic dialogue for my work.

How does living in Nebraska relate to your work? How do you think space and location inspire you? What about living on WetLand do you think will be the most familiar? The most challenging?

I think being landlocked in Omaha has significantly impacted my work. The inability to get anywhere else easily makes it particularly insular. The Nebraska landscape is long and wide. The plains serve as a barrier, a desert to cross. Because of this, the need to make my own world, or fun, has fueled my drive to create.

Because of my advocacy work through the Sweatshop Gallery, the prospect of working with other artists and participants is especially exciting. As far as challenges, I was a bit nervous about feeling seasick.

When was another time you challenged yourself to live differently or to shake up the pattern of daily life? How did it change you? How did it change your art?
When I chose to be a parent it shook up my life radically. It gave me patience, endurance, and a different vision of life. It dramatically changed the easiness with which I could create, and my imagery and mark-making changed dramatically. Not to mention the time I could dedicate to brainwork on any project. The way I have learned to compartmentalize my work has impacted how I work and what I make. Much of my work is about fragmentation–social, personal, and societal.

One of WetLand’s goals is to create a dynamic community space. What is your experience in working in/creating spaces like this? What would an ideal community space look like to you?
In 2012 we opened Sweatshop Gallery. Our vision was to provide a new forum for artistic experience at a time when very little dialogue was happening. Our events include cross discipline exhibitions (artists, musicians, writers, and performances) along with “happenings.” The gallery started as an organic process. There was a lot of creative energy that coincided at the same time with a collective willingness to make the project happen. I hope a similar process will happen at Wetland.

What do you hope to learn on WetLand? How will you take this back to Omaha?
I cannot wait to experience Mary’s art. Living in WetLand will be incredible. I also can’t wait to check out Philly and see what is happening in the city. Thanks FringeArts for making this happen!

Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 S. Columbus Blvd. (at Dock St.)
Through September 21st, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (ongoing)

–Abby Holtzman