Sunday, August 14, 2011

Katie Urban wants you to *almost* lay down on a bed of roses

Let me ask you this question: what  happens when you combine the red carpet and confetti? Answer: you will see Katie Urban's 2011 project for Art in Odd Places. She will explore the calming and "processional"  properties of rituals, while displaying an act of kindness. Using an object that is a typically symbolizes as a gesture of affection, this artist hopes to bring joy to everyone her walk way.

What exactly does she have in mind? I tell you this is much better than laying down on a bed of roses, because let's be honest here: New Yorkers really don't have anytime for that.

AiOP: Tell us about you?

KU: I live and work in a Victorian house in Brooklyn. I work in many different media, basically whatever it is that best communicates my ideas. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of photography based work.
Katie Urban, Photo provided by artist
A print from "Time Exposures", photo provided by artist

I’ve always been creative, always liked making things and felt some kind of need to express myself. A couple of years ago I found a sketchbook from when I was in fourth grade. It was filled with drawings of the covers of books that I wanted to write (think Babysitters Club meets Sweet Valley High), different hairstyles that I liked and outfits that I designed- I was big into Greek mythology then, so there was lots of drapery, wrap around sandals, lyres and columned buildings in the background. I actually worked in fashion for a spell, but decided that I instead wanted to focus on art making where I feel more creatively fulfilled.
A drawing from the artist's sketchbook

A lot of my work is very emotional. I think this is because I’m an emotional person, but generally have trouble showing that to people. So making art has become a way for me to express deeply personal things to others, but in this indirect, sort of coded way. In the end though, I think the work is less about me than it is about universal human experiences and emotions. Hopefully it is something that anyone can relate to and that makes people think, feel and appreciate being alive.

And I enjoy cooking.
"No One Receiving" Katie Urban

AiOP: How did you hear about Art in Odd Places?
KU: Through NYFA’s website. It’s a great resource for artists. I check it all the time. I’m really interested in sociology, comparative religion and mythology (see fourth grade sketchbook) so I was immediately drawn to this year’s festival and its theme of ritual.  

AiOP: Walk us through your thought process in creating your piece for Art in Odd Places.
KU: I started out by thinking about what a ritual is- how in religious contexts, it’s a highly symbolic, meaningful action, but in a psychological, more everyday context it’s a repetitive action that becomes automatic and meaningless. In my own life, I try to avoid going around on autopilot, try to appreciate the really small things like walking to work or going to the laundromat. I think kids do this, or at least I did when I was a kid. Some of my most vivid memories are of really mundane things like driving to CVS with my Dad listening to the oldies station. 

So I wanted to do something that would celebrate these little moments and awaken an awareness of them in people. New Yorkers work so hard and I also wanted to celebrate the efforts that we make every day just to get by.

I was looking at pictures of ancient temples and ziggurats and was interested in the processional walkways, these demarcated paths leading up to the sacred spaces. This led to the idea to create processional walkways out of rose petals along 14th Street to sanctify people's paths and offer them purification for the day ahead. I want the walkways to make people feel special, like they are walking on a red carpet. I also want them to remind people that life goes quickly and that the smallest, most mundane moments are worthy of celebration.

AiOP: How is the preparation coming along?
KU: Good! I’m really psyched to do this and am having fun scouting out 14th street for prime locations and looking for freeze dried rose petal suppliers. 

AiOP: Share one of your rituals with us that is part of your art or performance work.
KU: When I'm starting on something new, I always do a big clean and purge of my workspace. At the beginning of a project, my mind is usually still a little scattered trying to figure out the details and tie together lose ends and I feel like a disorganized space blocks my thinking. Also, once I'm working it tends to get messy so I like to start out on the right foot. 

AiOP: Where will see you along 14th street during the festival?
KU: To be confirmed very soon! I’m considering a few different locations. There’s a really cool church between 1st and A that would be an interesting spot. I’m also thinking about near the 6th Ave subway stop or in the meatpacking district near the High Line entrance at 10th.

AiOP: What do you hope to bring to the festival?
KU: Joy, awareness, appreciation.  

AiOP: Any message to the people who will be in 14th street during the festival?
KU: There are going to be so many cool projects this year. See as many as you can and talk to the artists. Also, if you’re rushing along and randomly happen upon something interesting, take the time to experience it, don’t just walk by.  

AiOP: Where can we reach you 
KU: Check out my website, 

AiOP: Any final words?
KU: Mark your calendars with big hearts and stars for Art in Odd Places- October 1-10!

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