Kate Gordon: Alligator Naps
Jan 06, 2021 — Mar 27, 2021
“The imagery I work with is largely stream of consciousness and dream based. As the individual images are cut up and re-stitched together, a nonsensical narrative often emerges focusing on the comically dark aspects of life. This feels very in step with the current pandemic moment which is, in my mind, akin to a fever dream.” —Kate Gordon
Understanding Kate Gordon's installation Alligator Naps requires pulling back many layers. Each of the monumental watercolor paintings on view represents substantial labor on Gordon's part. The canvases on which her paintings are created are first treated so they respond like paper to watercolor. The canvases are cured with PVA size (archival Elmer’s glue), and then gesso, which can be sanded to the smoothness of paper before she adds a water absorbing ground produced by Golden Artist Colors. At this point, the canvas behaves like paper. Gordon undertakes this process because it frees her to work with watercolors at a huge scale and with a material much more durable than smaller standardized watercolor paper.
The enclosed space of the Clerestory Gallery in which Alligator Naps lurks does several things that are important for the viewer. The whole installation, which is comprised of large pieces of canvas hung vertically from the ceiling in layers, looks like a diorama. The canvases combine to create a sense of depth that is similar to how traditional painting techniques create depth; linear and atmospheric perspective for example. Like a traditional painting, the illusion of depth one perceives in Alligator Naps is only seen directly in front of the work of art. However, the paintings overlap one another to create something closer to a sculpture, providing a vivid, three-dimensional sense of presence in the tight gallery space. It is unusual that a work of art described as a sculpture is visible only through a pair of glass doors. The installation cannot be easily viewed from more than one angle. This limited manner of viewing Alligator Naps is similar to the psychology of truly knowing and understanding another person. For example, a smile or a kind word may not reveal a person’s interior life and motivations. This is similar to how Gordon presents her own dreams for public consumption. Alligator Naps keeps its distance in the context of this installation and presents a singular view of Gordon’s artistic practice. This presentation removes the false sense of certainty a close examination of a work of art can provide a viewer; it reminds us that meaning is contingent on the perspective of those doing the interpreting.
Gordon’s ability to easily assign meaning to her work is also, to some extent, outside of her control as well. The inspiration for her images largely comes from her dreams, which can be vivid and bizarre. Gordon takes her rich source material and arranges it until it feels right. This stream of consciousness approach requires she cut up canvases and stitch them onto one another creating new connections and relationships, layers ripe for the production of meanings she is unsure of. Hers is an associative process that relies on the accumulation of images. For her, the interpretive process is psychologically loaded, ongoing and joyful, and, at times, dark as well. At its core, Alligator Naps illustrates our shared humanity in that we have an urge to understand ourselves and be understood, but we remain, in many ways, inaccessible to each other.