Studio Visit: Catherine Reinhart
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Studio Visit: Catherine Reinhart


We are so thrilled to have Ames, Iowa artist, Catherine Reinhart as one of the eight incredible artists in our current exhibition, Women’s Work! We visited Catherine’s studio earlier this summer to see what she was up to and choose work for the show. Soon after our visit, Catherine was awarded an Iowa Arts Council Project Grant to help execute a series of Collective Mending Sessions that she has held in various communities in Iowa and neighboring states. After hearing the news, we jumped at the chance to host one of these community-building workshops in conjunction with Women’s Work. Join us at the gallery on Saturday, October 26th from 1-4pm and learn basic mending techniques to cultivate care for cloth and community through the meditative practice of slow stitching. Registration is free and all materials as well as light refreshments will be provided. All skill levels welcome! 

Collective Mending Session

OL: When we visited your studio space in Ames this summer, you were starting to prepare for a big transition in not only your studio environment, but also in the work/life balance that so many of us try to strike. Can you talk about that transition, how you’ve adjusted to it, and how you see your artwork evolving because of it.

CR: The Real Talk is that it has been tough. I moved from a gallery manager position which came with a big, light-filled studio (and an intern) to my dimly lit basement studio in my home. Most difficult was the loss of two wonderful college students who had nannied for us about three years and became like family. 

I am still adjusting, which means piles of texts and sketchbooks in odd places, fragmented making periods, and practicing the art of being flexible daily. Interestingly enough, I am beginning to see how my home[making] can be a seed bed for a new body of work about place, and the labor, both physical and emotional that goes into mapping the domestic space. A topography of dwelling, if you will. 

Catherine Reinhart artist studio visit

Catherine Reinhart artist studio visit

O-L: Tell us about a few women artists who have influenced your work. 

CR: Lenore Tawney, who currently has a retrospective at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (taking a pilgrimage there soon!) She was my fist engagement with installation art. 
Sheila Hicks
Ann Hamilton
– whom I got to work with in graduate school at The Spencer Museum of Art. Installation artist. 
Anne Wilson– I admire her comprehensive projects which include extensive research and supplemental materials. 
Anne Truitt– her book Daybook: the Journal of an Artist is enlightening and insightful.

Of late, many women poets/authors have been influencing me highly:
Mary Oliver– whose poems I read before every mending session. 
Debra Marquart– Ames very own! Whose book The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere was one of the first texts that made me want to make art inspired by them. 
Rebecca Solnit

Catherine Reinhart artist studio visit

O-L: What was the impetus behind your socially engaged Collective Mending Sessions? Mending is an activity that has traditionally been viewed as “women’s work”. Is that something you’re trying to address? 

CR: The impetus behind The Collective Mending Sessions to cultivate care for cloth and community. It begun with a quilt that was mine from my teenage years. I told my mom to discard it. Being wise, she did not. It came back to me two years ago and I knew it needed mending – physically and metaphorically. Quickly, I realized that I needed help and the Collective Mending Sessions was born. 

This topic or phrase “women’s work” is one that comes up a lot in the fiber and textile world. I don’t personally think of it in this gendered way, although I don’t deny its historical relevance. The Subversive Stich: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozsika Parkeris helping me learn more about this history. 

Moreover, I am trying to address the issue of ‘tending’ which is vital to the practice of mending and involves sustained care. The mending/tending done collaboratively to this quilt will make it an art object, this elevates the care and labor involved. Labor that “has rarely been honored and hardly recognized; it took and takes place in the realm of the female, the domestic, the rural, the private; it maintains and is marginalized with the body.” – Rebecca Solnit, Essay “The Making: Landscapes of Emergency. After Ann Hamilton” More on my Blog.

Catherine Reinhart artist studio visit

O-L: One of the most dominant visual components in your work is layering. I’m interested in how that relates to the idea of memory and story telling that I think is also inherent in your work. Are those things you think about while working or developing ideas?

CR: Wonderful question. Certainly, I am interested in the untold stories of the unknown makers who made the found textiles I use in my work. I am interested in second chances. This means listening to the stories people are not telling. 

My use of layers is highly influenced by my background in printmaking, where layers are king. The world of prints is where my compositional sense developed. 
Layers are also an example of history, time or duration. You can see time through layers of sediment in the earth or how high the dirty laundry is piled in your bedroom. This relates to a body of work dealing with Textiles + Topography, the genesis of which you can see in pieces on view in Women’s Work.

O-L: What’s next for you? Do you have any new projects on the horizon?

CR: The Collective Mending Sessions is trucking along. It has entered my mind that this project could continue indefinitely with more quilts that need mending. I would take donations!

As I always have about three things going at once, there is a body of work I am trying to synthesize enough to present in the next year or two. I am on the hunt for an artist residency to aid in that process and some funding to create a larger set of sculptural objects. Wish me luck or support my practice by purchasing work from Olson-Larsen Galleries!

Don't miss Catherine's Collective Mending Session at the gallery Saturday, October 26th from 1-4 pm. Register for FREE here. If you can't make it to the workshop, come by the gallery before November 30th to see all of the talented ladies in Women's Work!

Interview and photography by Alyss Vernon

10/22/2019 2:47 PM |Add a comment |Comments (1)
I love the themes of mending/tending, mapping, and storytelling. These are all such vital aspects of "Women's Work."

Heather K Powers | | | 08/16/2021 1:53 PM
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