Tad Mike with Kristin Holder

December 12, 2010

Tad Mike: The issue of touch or lack of touch in your work is of interest. You are dealing with something as fragile as soot. There is this issue of approach, namely, how you begin to approach a white sheet of paper and marry these two disparate elements together. Do you imagine and prepare for a number of variables and factors to create these pieces?

Kristin Holder: Yes, pain being the first thing, burning myself. (Laughter)

TM: Oh really?

KH: Yes, that’s genuine. The soot is not applied any other way rather than using fire and using a piece of paper large enough really to have a good distance.

TM: So you are not heating objects to place on the paper, only using fire directly?

KH: Using only fire. I have to hold the piece of paper while I am burning it. I guess I could choose a larger sheet of paper, but I don’t.

TM: Obviously you want a certain scale and a certain mark to fit the sheet, so it requires the paper to be a certain size.

KH: Yes, but I was interested in following the direction the fire took me as a one-shoot work, not making a series of marks.

TM: You were working alla prima, and what happened or what did not happen was the work?

KH: Yes.

TM: How did you arrive at using soot and burning the paper as a way of working?

KH: I had been exposed to and been thinking about Yves Klein, the burned pieces he did. They are much larger, obviously, and reveal an image, but I had seen those works and I was working up in a studio in rural Washington State. Part of my ritual every day, every morning, was to heat my studio by starting a fire in a wood stove. To make it accommodating for me to work, the experience was all about fire. So I had these materials around and was using dried pigment and some of it was very coarse. I was using dried pigments in gum arabic and was interested in making my own pigments from what I had there.

TM: I think the non-art-making experiences that occur before one works are very important. Building a fire is a gesture almost like a sketch for you.

KH: Yes, much of the time in the studio is not about making capital A-R-T.

TM: All of the works made with soot and fire have an oneiric or dreamlike quality to them. The French writer Gaston Bachelard wrote a book, Fragments of a Poetics of Fire, where he describes fire as something that entices the imagination.

KH: Yes…

TM: The work in the exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art has a presence that speaks to something very specific, although I really don’t know what…what that is? It has a presence outside the time it took to create it.

KH: I would admit to a parallel conscious, but while I am working in the studio I am pretty pragmatic. I don’t want to discount any other states of awareness going on at once. At this point in my life I am really not drawn to that way of being or thinking. I really wasn’t then either. I don’t totally discount it because I admire it in other people, people who are able to speak clearly about it with a stated set of beliefs.

TM: For some artists being able to articulate what their work is about could destroy the work.

KH: I suppose so. I feel totally out of touch with that part of myself. My early influences from my early twenties were Chinese art and Japanese art. On the west coast there is more of an eye towards Eastern art. That is where I grew up and went to school. I like that so much hard work goes into something that appears, as you said, otherworldly.

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