Katherine Rutter: Artist

Spotted in: The Mission, SF

Occupation: Artist 

What are you up to today?

I volunteer over at Creativity Explored—I live in the East Bay and I come here once a week. I'm just heading back from there and am on my way to meet a friend.

How long have you been volunteering there?

Maybe about six months?

How did you get into doing that? 

I'm an artist and I stumbled across Creative Growth over in Oakland, when I was visiting a few years ago. I was really blown away by the work there—so inspiring on so many levels. So I started researching what they did and found out about Creativity Explored. And then I moved here in September to the Bay Area, and started volunteering over here.

Where did you move from?

From Arkansas. I lived in Denver for a long time, so it wasn't a big change. I wasn't going straight from the farm to the big city! [laughs] I think it would have been a big shock if I had done that. 

What kind of art do you do?

I work with mixed media on paper, but mostly really intricate drawings—pencil work, watercolor, and gouache. The main thing I do is start my drawings by laying algae out on paper—I'm really interested in our subconscious and connecting with that, seeing where it leads us. After the algae has dried, I go back and find images in it—the images evolve from there.

Where do you find your algae, what's the process?

In a creek in Arkansas. [laughs] 

Really? Did you bring it with you?

Oh yeah, totally! And there's actually only one time of year at the very end of the summer when you can collect it—it's just the right consistency. So I'll actually ask my folks—hey it's that time of year, can you go jar up some algae for me? 

How did you realize that that was going to become one of your mediums?

I don't know, I was just playing! I was in the creek with my sister, and there was this crazy algae bloom—which can be super devastating to the environment, but it's also super interesting. So we were in the creek digging around and I was pulling it up and I was thinking this is like hair—it's so crazy, I should work with it somehow. My initial thought was that I was going to create a sculpture with it, like dry it in some way and combine it with other things, but that didn't happen. I just put it on some paper and was like, whoa, that's cool! And whoa, it looks like this weird critter thing. And so I went from there. 

Have you showed any of your work anywhere?

I've shown probably mostly in Denver but as far as this area goes, there's a gallery in Oakland called LeQuiVive, which is kind of why I moved out here. I'd visited for shows I was a part of and fell in love with the city. They're on Webster near 16th, across the street from that wall where all those murals are. They're actually responsible for much of the work that has gone up there, which is really great. I'm working on moving into a studio space above the gallery, which is wonderful because I've been working out of my bedroom right now and it's really small.

What are your current inspirations?

Oooh—lots of things. One thing I've been thinking a lot about is the I Ching. I've been using it as a method for personal/spiritual growth for several years now, but I'm trying to find ways now of how I can incorporate it into my work. I love that it talks about the significance of chance and going with the flow. That's also what I'm trying to do with my work. I've been playing around and experimenting with salt, dyeing with turmeric and beets and the effects of compost on paper. I have some paper that is basically rotting between two large boards in my backyard right now. The beauty of decay is really interesting to me—something that I think sometimes makes society uncomfortable, but that is actually really beautiful in many forms.

I've been going to the flower shop near my house after hours and going through their compost dumpster, gathering flowers and plants that are kind of "past their prime," but that I still really adore. Thinking about ways to use these in my work.

I'd also say that John Cage is an inspiration. I just watched an interesting documentary that I got from the library, so he's been especially on my mind as of late.I have an album of his that's really beautiful and peaceful, which sometimes isn't the case with his music—some of it can be difficult to listen to. But I like his work for the same reasons, that it's spontaneous and leaves a lot to chance and experimentation. Finding loveliness in unexpected places. 

How would you describe your personal style?

I think it's pretty much all thrifted. It makes sense environmentally and it's affordable. I also like that there's a history to these things—someone else has loved and worn these items throughout the years, they've been to other places—like this bag, look at all these marks and how worn in it is! It's seen many things, carried many things.

What are some favorite places you've discovered in SF or East Bay?

My heart is always a little achey for the country—so any time I find bits of it, it warms me up. I don't have a car so I have to find it in the small places in the East Bay. But there are good spots! Cesar Chavez park is lovely for picnicking with friends and watching kites and water and clouds. Favorite things. Alone time reading places are Mountain View cemetery and Strawberry Creek Park. Quiet reflecting time is so important! 

If you like this article, please share it! Your clicks keep us alive!