Artists have a reputation for being flighty, sporadic, impulsive, and unpredictable. But then there’s Kate MacNeil. A painter and printmaker, MacNeil is thoughtful, methodical, and even scientific in her creations. This could be due to the nature of her artistic endeavors. Letterpress, etchings, and screen printing are probably the most well-known forms of printmaking, but as MacNeil tells us there are actually 20 or 30 different types of printmaking. And that’s why she loves it.
MacNeil’s aesthetic explores the use of negative space to create different perspectives on her still lifes. Roses and bottles appear often in her work but must vie for the viewer’s attention alongside the purposeful, empty spaces. She explores the idea of an afterlife through her still lifes — not so much a heaven or hell, but the idea that when something or someone dies we remember that life. “They’re no longer with us but we remember they existed,” MacNeil says.
And for someone who’s had to grow up quickly and deal with some heavy blows, battling with her materials and not her emotions provides a sense of relief. MacNeil lost two loved ones while in college, and she turned to art to help her grieve and heal. The images she created were emotionally charged, which left her drained after eight-hour stints in the studio. But that’s another nice thing about printmaking. Once you’ve created the image the focus turns to transferring that image onto a new material. “I’m a very process-orientated person, and printmaking is all about the process,” she says. “Artwork is always slightly cathartic [but] with printmaking since there’s so much process involved you’re constantly worrying ‘Oh, did I leave that in the acid too long?’ … and all of a sudden its no longer about the image,” she explains.
Did we mention that MacNeil was only 24? But that’s not stopping her. She’s got big plans — her first solo exhibition, grad school, and even opening her own studio, gallery, and retail space. Not to mention learning letterpress and perfecting her portfolio.