When artist Kate Hooray Osmond started looking at elementary schools for her son, she realized that she had more than just questions about teachers, lunch breaks, recess. “I was looking at points of entry, seeing what their security measures were,” she says. She was thinking about what would happen if a school shooter came into the building. “So, I started researching how these things happen.”
Osmond is nothing if not a research-based artist. She’s perhaps best known for the large-scale Lowcountry paintings she creates based on aerial photography, taken from the seat of helicopter. “The idea of learning something, that’s the whole shebang,” she says.
What she learned when looking into school shootings, at the history of mass violence, is that the fear we feel today is nothing new. Osmond found that violence is cyclical: “School shootings have been happening since the 1800s, since there have been schools.”
“I started studying cycles and habits which brought me into physics,” she says. “I started distilling everything down into these models I was making, which gave me the biggest headache ever.” The headache, though, led to a conclusion about the three things responsible for the workings of the universe: some type of energy, connection between points through which that energy passes, and change without change.
“In physics, change without change is symmetry,” says Osmond. “In yoga and Eastern consciousness, it’s everything.” This idea of the world constantly changing and in a sense, returning to itself, again and again, inspired the name for her solo exhibit, opening at Miller Gallery this Friday: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.
Osmond first presented a version of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop this summer in Baltimore, as part of her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. It featured 59 painted panels on 59 canvases, placed in a circle. In the center were 6,000 dominoes. “It was my model of the universe,” says Osmond. The panels were images of the Charleston area, AK-47s, schools, nuclear waste facilities, “everything that could be in a landscape.”
“The idea for this project,” says Osmond, “was creating a model for a child to go into and understand the workings of the universe so they wouldn’t be afraid.”
The panels will be displayed differently at the Miller Gallery, separate from one another instead of in a circle. “All the panels will be in a different order to display energy and change without change; they’re endlessly rearrangeable,” says Osmond. She adds that the work is “very heavy” for her, but not necessarily for others looking at it.
And that’s the beauty of art, right? It’s what we make it, how we use it, whether we’re creating it or consuming it. For Osmond, her work helps her make sense of the world. “We all go through our lives, and we’re all trying. Our brains try to make sense of things,” she says. “In the simplest sense I wanted to make sense of something I didn’t understand.”
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