Heather Kapplow, United States

Residency Period: 1 February 2015 - 31 July 2015


Heather Kapplow is a self-trained conceptual artist based in the United States. She creates engagement experiences that elicit unexpected intimacies using objects, alternative interpretations of existing environments, installation, performance, writing, audio and video. Her work has received government and private grants and has been included in galleries, film and performance festivals in the US and internationally.

URL: www.heatherkapplow.com

On-hiatus Proposal Summary

As a self taught artist who works conceptually, Heather sometimes struggles to identify when she is making art and when she is doing something else. During her residency at RFAOH, she wants to spend time exploring the boundary between making art and not making art and will be documenting her experiences. She hopes to get a clearer sense of what is and isn't an art practice for her, and to uncover or more deeply connect to the truth of what she is working at when making art. (She is also curious whether it is actually possible for her to "not make art.")

During her residency, she may also experiment with creative practices that fall outside of her repertoire to see if these feel the same or different from what she thinks of as art making. Possibilities include trying to make perfume, playing music, or writing fiction -- all areas where she has no previous experience.

Final Report

In my last posting on the RFAOH website, I said a good deal of what I feel should be said here, but now that I've had a month or so of "making art" "again" (is it art? did I ever stop?) maybe I'll say it in a different way.

When I applied to RFAOH, I was essentially proposing a challenge to the RFAOAH project itself. It looked to me as if everyone else who had done the residency before me had been on a hiatus for reasons more or less beyond their control, so I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone took an intentional hiatus just to do the residency. Though at the time I applied I was hoping to also experiment with some creative forms that I had not experimented with before, my real goals for the residency were to investigate my own nature as a creator and to get feedback and mentorship for a practice that I feel I have developed for myself almost entirely out of thin air. My starting point was that I was calling myself an artist but was having difficulty knowing the boundaries between my life and my art-making, and my hope was to discover them by trying to eliminate the activities in my life that I typically call art-making and seeing what else was there when they were subtracted.

What happened was that each time I subtracted something from the pile of activities in my life that I defined as art-related, something else jumped right into its place. During the period of the residency I went from being an artist who made a (meager) living doing commercial work unrelated to the arts, to being a non-artist, making a (meager) living that involved more or less complete immersion in the arts. Now I am (in a very month-to-month way) making a (meager) living that is all arts-related, and I am making art (which actually doesn't feel like art anymore!)

That what I'm doing doesn't feel like art anymore is important and gets at the kernal of what I was trying to uncover within RFAOH. I was in many ways looking for this sparkling moment that I have every once in a while where I know for one second that what I'm doing is magical. It doesn't happen often, but I had hoped to find where it lived--where it secretly hid out within my practices--and then to sharpen my awareness of its workings so that I could bring it to the surface more often and easily. I never found it. Or maybe the answer to that quest is just that if more of my life's time gets devoted to art, more opportunities will arise for that thing to emerge. But meanwhile, the activities of my "art making" feel more mundane than they ever have. They've become just the literal series of actions and steps involved in making nothing into something.

In the "works" that I am in the midst of, I can't see the magic part that I'm hoping will be in the final product. I can only see the all of the pieces (and of course the fear that they will all be in the same place at the same time and people will look at them and say "what are all of those pieces doing there?")

This is not a complaint though. It's actually kind of exciting. It's like becoming a surfer and then, after getting over the awe of being able to stand on water, getting really into the minutia of the mechanics involved in doing so.

Am I answering the questions?

As I said at the end of my last blog post, now that I understand how the RFOAH works (in both the nitty gritty way and the magic way, since it actually does both,) I think I would like to do it again someday in a completely different (but knowing me, not entirely different) way. I would like to try to not only not make art, but also to try to isolate myself from exposure to art as much as possible. I suspect, if the process were to work as it did this time, that by the end of a second RFAOH, I wouldn't be able to see anything in the world around me as artless...




recent comments

Another Thought….

Some of my work-work currently has me looking very closely at the artwork, lives and influence (on the West) of mid-19th Century Japanese printmakers. One thing that strikes me in reading about these guys (yes, so far they’re all guys…) is that when they “retire” they always continue to make art. It is as if retiring from being an artist is just an excuse to be a different kind of artist. It has also caught my attention that they constantly change their names and then make different kinds of artwork. I’m wondering if I can get away with making art under a different name while in residency here…

Leave a Comment (7)

enrique wrote on Jun 11:

thanks heather! I found the catalog on amazon. Best wishes !!

heather wrote on May 25:

Welcome aboard Georgia! Enrigue, the book I've been looking at is a catalog for a touring show from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston called "Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan" but the printmakers that I've been most interested in are Utagawa Hiroshige and Yoshida Hiroshi, plus also the most famous in the US, Katsushika Hokusai... I'm feeling very lucky that it's a part of my job right now to let my eyes sink into this kind of stuff...

Georgia wrote on May 18:

Hi Heather, I've only just begun but also finding reading about other artists as such a breath of fresh air and something to turn to as relief in this process of hiatus.

enrique wrote on May 18:

Beautiful thoughts Heather! Doubts and uncertainties are the best opportunities to explore new things. Hmm ... Also it is very interesting what you comment about the Japanese printmakers, I could gladly read a little bit about it. Do you have any book or texts suggestions? Un abrazo !!

Kelly wrote on May 18:

I really feel for you in these last posts - i have a different take, in that I've put art last on my list for so long, I realized after posting today I'm terrified to start...

heather wrote on May 16:

Hi Shinobu! I think tortured is the wrong word. contorted is more like it. it's like when you try to stuff something into someplace where it doesn't fit and when you get it tucked in one place, it pops out at the other end. I really want to use this residency to refine my practice, but what's happening instead is that I am finding myself almost literally unable to not make art. My art-energy keeps squeezing out into other places like I'm a tube of toothpaste with invisible holes in it...

shinobu wrote on May 16:

are you feeling tortured Heather?? No one's stopping you!^^