about the exhibition
New Works 06.3
San Antonio, TX
November 16, 2006–January 14, 2007about the artist
Through exuberant drawing, performance projects, and comic books, Katie Pell celebrates vernacular traditions, presenting a world without taboos or boundaries—one where anything is possible for those who go beyond given conditions and just “do.” Her works irreverently explore personal, gender, and cultural identity, as well as the potential for greatness in everyone.
Pell has completed two bodies of work focusing on the dormant fame in each of us. Pastel and ink drawings with titles such as The Poetic Mick (2003) and Mick from Chester (2003) use expressive color and angular lines to show ordinary people transformed into the persona of Mick Jagger. Pell also developed a large-scale hand-drawn and hand-bound comic book that humorously tells of the extraordinary impact of a Jagger apparition on the otherwise humdrum life of the artist as a teenager. In these projects and others, Pell delves into the role of fate and circumstance while creating a dichotomy between how we appear and who we would like to become.
Katie Pell was born in Wilmington, DE, in 1965 and currently lives in San Antonio, TX. She received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, in 1987. She has had solo exhibitions at Cactus Bra Space (2004), Parchman Stremmel Gallery (2003), and Southwest School of Art & Craft (2002), all in San Anotnio, TX. Her work has been included in exhibitions such as Altoids Curiously Strong Collection, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (2006); Character Studies, University of Texas at San Antonio Art Gallery (2004); and Drawing in San Antonio: Works by Contemporary Area Artists, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX (2002).
about the project
With Bitchen, Katie Pell has depicted a parallel universe in which women use their disposable income to customize domestic appliances with the competitive zeal of their male counterparts: car fanatics.
An editioned comic book on view in the gallery tells the story. Its seventeen pen, ink, and colored pencil pages follow a group of women who win a class action lawsuit against a major discount retailer and use their small windfall to begin a custom appliance enterprise. The machines eventually become a mainstream phenomenon and ultimately benefit the big box store whose discrimination helped them come into being.
An installation of objects illustrates the narrative. A smoldering purple stove emblazoned with the show’s title spits flames with the flip of a switch; the interior of a candy-colored dryer is tricked out with plush leopard print upholstery and a crystal display that operates on slow rotation; a stand-up freezer is faced with burnt wood murals of deer in love and decked out with a custom knotty pine interior and chandelier. Like hotrod slogans that suggest the creed of the owner, several chromed-out toasters are engraved with a cursive “Love” and “Hate,” a duality that expresses the passion of these everyday ladies.
While the appliances are activated only during staged demonstrations, altered digital portraits show women living with their personalized products. Projected on a wall is video footage of the objects on display at a local car show, where they won second place in the orphan category.
Pell’s Bitchen shares the tale of a motley crew of mothers, sisters, conservatives, and liberals who, unfazed by norms and the imbalanced emphasis on male-defined recreation, just do.