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Artspace Resident Katie Sehr at Burchfield Penney in February

Katie Sehr's paintings will be part of a an exhibit opening at the Burchfield Penney Art Center on February 12.

Meet Katie Sehr

“Let there be spaces in togetherness,” wrote Kahlil Gilbran.

Overlooking the Delta Sonic petrol plaza, Katie Sehr’s studio apartment is a quiet cloister of understated furnishing and family antique heirlooms. An artist in her early 30s, Sehr studied with David Scherm and graduated magna cum laude with a BFA in painting from UB in 2000. She took her MFA in print media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005.

Having been brought up “in the woods” along the upper Hudson Valley, she often went to nearby Storm King Sculpture Park, where she came to admire the outdoor works of Richard Serra and David Smith. Later at the Chicago Art Institute, personal circumstances triggered an episode of manic depression that prompted a propensity for drawing repetitive strokes. “Hypergraphia,” a condition that is expressed by a driving compulsion to write or draw repetitively, is often associated with mania in the context of bi-polar disorder. Working in printmaking in Chicago, she gradually found a truer measure of her creative energy in drawing directly on paper. Her mentor there told her to forget printmaking and “keep drawing.” Earlier influences included Mark Toby, Agnes Martin, Ad Rinehart, and Veja Celmins—all major artists in the minute mysteries of the refined mark.

Sehr’s work space, her apartment floor between a big brass bed and kitchen, belies the scale of her drawings. On her knees, cushioned by a small throw pillow, she leans over large sheets of decal-edged paper. Using a series of metallic jelly pens, she addresses the blank rectangle, drawing, within a ruled-off perimeter, a miniscule tissue grid of interlocking, angular/curving, glyphic-like deposits of ink that give the impression at a distance of sand, fabric, or screen mesh, creating a finely detailed surface that invites close inspection. The process is additive, one character form building to the next in a continuous expanse fluctuating through minute variations in detail. This overall design holds the ground solidly but allows the work to breathe through its pin-dot negative spaces at the interstice of each grapheme. Over the course of many sessions, amid the dust and errant hair of her apartment, Sehr draws meticulous, labyrinth-like compositions that become gossamer vails of color—pale when the pen runs near dry, strongly pigmented where the pen is new.

In her work Katie Sehr has channeled a therapeutic journey from psychological dysfunction into art fully wrought in elegant ligatures of meditative grace.

Sehr will be featured in an exhibition at the Burchfield Penny Art Center titled Overabundance of Detail from February 12 to July 3, 2011.

j. tim raymond

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