What she does: "What am I looking at?" is a response Houston-based artist Katy Heinlein is used to hearing about her fabric art sculptures and installations. Heinlein employs a whimsical yet haute couture fashion approach to her artwork, comprised of complex shapes, simple lines and bright, bold colors. Her cleverly-named creations include Ceremony, a green, gray and purple fabric floor sculpture and a large, phallic-like wooden sculpture appropriately titled Pornloop. "Each piece is structured as choreography between material and gravity, built to perform in its own particular way, but an element of randomness is always at play," Heinlein says.
Why she likes it: It doesn't bother Heinlein if people don't understand her art; the more mysterious it is, the better. "I enjoy the challenge of making something - physically and mentally," she says. "I like solving visual problems, and art gives me that opportunity." Heinlein's art has shown in the Lawndale Art Center in Houston and several others in the United States, Mexico and Japan. However, Heinlein doesn't necessarily think visual art is the best medium to get an obvious message across. "I think that the mysterious is a more potent force for me than something that is spelled out," she says.
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What inspires her: Heinlein was an artist-in-residence in Shigaraki, Japan during her fine art graduate studies at Texas Tech University. By absorbing the surrounding culture, her interest in fashion reflects how Japanese fashion "manipulate[s] pedestrian materials to become a powerful force of transformation," she says. Heinlein uses some elements found in religious ceremonies and optical illusions and applies them in an elegant, high-fashion manner. The idea of artificiality and having fabric as an outer shell, mysteriously hiding something that's not really there in plain sight is important to note in understanding her artwork. Heinlein also uses the concept of gravitational push and pull in how her art is presented. For example, in her piece, Natural Fall, abstract fabric shapes spill downward while an orange foam ribbon attached on a wall holds part of the fabric upward. "Gravity has always been a fascinating force to me," she says. "I try to defy and ultimately cooperate with gravity in my work."
What's next?: "Honestly, I'm not sure," she says. "I'd rather not know something fully because it keeps me wondering and interested." Heinlein is currently represented at the Bryan Miller Gallery in Houston and recently showed an exhibit at the Sue Scott Gallery in New York.
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