The allure of this wetland has not left her, leading to her series Elutriate (meaning, “to purify, separate, or remove by washing”). On days she is photographing, Kate heads to New Jersey, arriving just as the dawn light glimmers, or perhaps before sunset, carrying three large-format pinhole cameras, one of which she built herself. Among the tall reeds and shifting waters she seeks to capture “the point at which a landscape morphs from documentary to memory to fantasy.” The largest images are exposed on eight-by-twenty negatives Kate creates from rice paper brushed with a light-sensitive liquid emulsion, the brushwork adding texture to the image. The process requires attention, deliberation. Each exposure takes up to three minutes. Kate generally only brings five negatives. She chooses her subjects carefully.

Kate’s connection to COA came in 1985, when she visited while on a semester course with Outward Bound. Intrigued by its freedom, she soon enrolled, studying birds, ceramics, drawing, poetry, philosophy, painting. Then she took up boatbuilding, and left for the Caribbean—which is where she was when faculty emerita JoAnne Carpenter contacted her in 1987, asking Kate to be her teaching assistant for a winter term class in Greece and Turkey. “It changed my life,” she says. “It shaped the way I now make art.” Kate later transferred to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, where she received a BFA while also designing her own curriculum.

“My work is about interpreting the landscape,” Kate writes in an artist statement. “It is also about memory. My feelings about nature are visceral. I am constantly striving to reflect the serenity, freedom, and sense of security that I feel when I am outside and alone. … I photograph ‘fringe’ places—areas that are not inhabited by people but that are rife with evidence of them, as well as places from my childhood that have stayed with me and evolved into strange, monochrome memories.”

The memories that create these hypnotic images aren’t necessarily pleasant. About Elutriate Kate writes, “I am in the back seat of my father’s car. … My elbow is digging into the armrest and I am pressed firmly against the door. No one in my family is speaking. The tension is palpable in this small, enclosed space. We are speeding down the highway. My window is open just a crack and the backs of my legs are sticking to the vinyl seat. … There is a lump of fear in my throat. … My face is against the window and my breath is creating a fog on the glass. … Through this steamy fog I see fires burning out of control. I see train tracks, towers, endless power lines, factories, and swaths of open water interrupted by a labyrinth of estuaries weaving through millions of tall reeds—all whipping by at a rapid speed. I am mesmerized by this bizarre industrial landscape and I am desperate to disappear into it.”


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