[ La Jolla, CA | | | b. 1946 - Washington, D.C. ]
Kat Flyn is a self-taught assemblage artist working presently out of San Diego. She began her career as a costume designer in Southern California. Over the years she amassed a trove of artifacts and collectables which she began using to create assemblage art in the 1990's. In 2000 she sold her business and moved to Cuyamaca, a remote community in the mountains outside of San Diego to devote herself exclusively to her artwork. In 2003 her work was interrupted when the Cedar Fire swept through San Diego county and destroyed the forest, her home & studio along with almost all of her collections and works of art. Following the fire she relocated to San Francisco, where she spent a decade concentrating on her art in her studio in SOMA and exhibiting at galleries in the Bay Area. In 2015 she returned to San Diego and now works out of her studio in La Jolla, exhibiting there and in Los Angeles.
Kat Flyn refers to herself as an Assemblage Sculptor and her works as Political Art or Protest Art. She separates herself from other assemblage artists in that she only employs “saved” as opposed to “found” objects in her work; and her pieces always have a political or cultural narrative to them rather than being surreal or abstract. She also constructs or refashions many of the pieces which she uses in her art – a soft drink box into a tenement building (Affordable Housing 2017), a jewelry box into a wheelchair (Last Lily Foot 2016), an old shoe shine box into a hearse (Katrina 2018). The result is her work is closer in appearance to Folk Art than Assemblage Art.
Strictly speaking I am an assemblage artist, but in fact I construct more than assemble my works. I search out collectables, artifacts and wood carvings and then build scenes to make statements regarding American society. Even when using artifacts from earlier centuries, my theme is almost always about contemporary America. Social injustice, racism, sexism, and violence - aspects of our national psyche – exist in the present but have their seeds planted in our past. Additionally, the artifacts I use, often are meant to amplify the meaning of the work. For instance, the Black stereotype wood figures I use in many of my pieces were almost certainly crafted by a White person. By using such artifacts I ask: what kind of society produces such items in the first place?
In my art I make a strict distinction between found objects and saved objects.. A found object - which most assemblage artists use in their works - is devoid of intrinsic or emotional value, having been discarded by its owner as worthless or broken. A saved object on the other hand has retained value, either because it was intrinsically valuable or because emotional value had been added to it (such as a photograph, an old shoe, a vintage toy) and consequently it was saved rather than discarded. The fact that I only use “saved objects” often results in viewers being attracted to the individual pieces within my works rather than seeing the narrative I am attempting to portray.
The pieces on display in this exhibit are from my American Home Series. I have assembled an array of old artifacts, carved figures, and iconic symbols, each spotlighting an aspect of living conditions within our borders; and as is consistent with my art, focus is placed on failings in our social contract – overcrowded tenements, trailer parks with their plethora of social ills, poverty back to back with middle class affluence until the foreclosure crisis united both in misery. I realize my presentation in this series is somewhat cartoonish, given the seriousness of the subject matter – racism, poverty, immigration. However, I have found that viewers' initial response to my work is more favorable when I visually phrase my topic in this way. My goal is to get viewers to pause long enough to see past the art and into the narrative advanced by my work.
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