Thursday, January 09, 2014
When she was 15 years old, Kait Brink asked her grandmother to teach her to knit. At first, “it was really just a way to connect with her,” Brink said as she talked one recent afternoon in her Easthampton studio at One Cottage Street. Quickly, though, “it just sort of grabbed me,” she said. I like repetition, I like order, and I’d always liked making things with my hands.”
She started making the usual things — scarves, a blanket — and before long had founded a knitting club at her California high school.
A few years later, as an undergraduate in a woodworking class at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Brink and her fellow art students were given an assignment to take a small object of everyday life and make it big.
“I was knitting all the time anyway,” she recalled, and so she made a pair of knitting needles out of long pine planks.
Having made the needles, she began using them. One creation, a long piece in appealing shades of green, stretches nearly floor to ceiling in her studio. Another, in creamy neutrals, hangs against a wall. A third, shown here, is called “Blanket of Blankets.” Brink turns discarded bits of yarn and old bedsheets into the thick materials she knits with — and the knitting process itself, which she has recorded on YouTube, requires a second person’s help. “You can’t hold both needles,” she says. “They’re too heavy.”
A visitor to Brink’s studio will likely notice her fantastical knit works right away, but they are, in fact, only part of her creative output. She is also a painter of watercolors and her intense, intriguing, sometimes disturbing images — among them, a grotesquely contorted doll, and an angry-looking young woman with scissor-like legs — invite reflection and speculation. Watercolor, she says, is her “chosen way of making the images I see visible.”
“Tired” shows a woman hanging on a tire swing. Brink, now 25, has struggled with chronic fatigue, and says the image took shape in her mind when she lived near a tire business. The tires she saw out her kitchen window, the overwhelming fatigue she sometimes felt, and memories of seeing children on tire swings combined to create an image that gives viewers space to find their own meaning. To one viewer “Tired” might be a whimsical statement about being worn out at day’s end; to someone else, it’s a statement about being utterly drained.
She’s apt to think about an idea for a painting for weeks, even months. She takes dozens, sometimes hundreds of photos, then reworks and edits them on a computer. For “Tired,” she photographed tires, studied rope, and took pictures of herself draped over stools to get the body positioning just so.
For every painting, she tests her palette “so that the colors are exactly how I want them.” Using a mechanical pencil, she lightly draws the image on the paper that will become the watercolor, and then rubs it out bit by bit. “It’s a way of studying the image. I’ll erase the whole thing, but it stays in my mind,” she said.
A self-described perfectionist, Brink says her exacting process “helps me know every line, angle and color.” By the time she starts to paint, “most of my decisions are already made. I’m not thinking ‘I need more of this color.’ ” She is in a place almost beyond thinking, she said, a place that’s about “the emotion, sensation, person or experience” that lies underneath.
— Suzanne Wilson
To see more of Kait Brink’s work, visit www.kaitbrink.com.