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

The Big Reveal

Where did we leave off? Oh yes, in my last two posts I was vowing to abstain from all exposure to the arts for a full week and wondering rhetorically whether I could make “a different kind of art” right now under an alias….

Let’s go ahead and close these loops as they lead directly to the conclusions I am arriving at as my residency here (where is here?) winds down. 

Vow=not possible to keep. As we speak, I am taking a break from working on some work-work which involves looking at and writing about other people’s art and the history of artists influencing each other. In the background, as I type, there is original live music because I live with a musician. Things are being composed in the air around me as I write here—there is stopping and starting and starting again with slightly different tempo or intonation… In the morning, I will sit with a playwright and give feedback as he struggles to find voices for his characters that balance realism and allegory, and then, after an afternoon of refining questions for some interviews that I will be doing with filmmakers later this week, I will go hear someone read from their new book. I can’t escape art. I don’t think this was always the case, but during my tenure here it has increasingly become so: I am immersed in art almost 24/7. I would have to take a radical break from my life to abstain from contact with art. I think I would actually really like to do that sometime, but it just isn’t plausible right now. So realization #1: I will need to do this residency again some day. Totally differently. Truly abstaining.

Next, aliases: I have not used any aliases that disguise my identity. But I have been saying yes to opportunities that I would normally classify as art by re-classifying them as other things. I mentioned two of these in my April posting: cooking for a live audience within someone’s art installation which I would have typically called “performing”, became simply “cooking”; making experimental short videos for someone’s alternative broadcast network, which I would have previously labelled “multimedia art”, became “experimental journalism”; and now, a project happening during the next few weeks which will involve sexually charged virtual exchanges with strangers culminating in a non-virtual public moment that I would have once called “public engagement art” but am billing as “a social experiment.” 

A few weeks ago I had a brief but very satisfying conversation with someone that is not an artist but whom I think is pretty fabulous and strongly reccommend as a potential advisor for RFAOH, Jason Eppink. He told me that he stopped making art several years ago and now only makes mischief (which in many cases looks indistinguishable to me from art…)

Realization #2: I don’t have to make art, I just have to do these things that I have to do. (Which leads directly to realization #3: I don’t have to be an artist. I just have to be this thing that I am.)

Finally, I actually will be showing some art before the residency officially ends, so think I will need to end my residency a few days early. Unless I can think of a way to bill a series of photographs as something other than art, I have 10 small Polaroid images that I took in December 2014 that will be in a gallery show that I orginally thought was opening on July 31st, but which will be opening on July 24th. I will keep thinking though in case a fabulous way of describing this work as something other than art arises.

But regardless, I think my work here is almost done.

The next things I will need to think about as a whatever-I-am-if-not-exactly-an-artist-shmartist-etc. are what it means now that I have shifted gears into this place where everything is art and I am just a small part of that by virtue of being aware of it, and then what it means in terms of my personal political responsibility to stand in this space where I’m now standing.

Golly gee I don’t know the answers yet, so for now I leave you with this small food for thought:


Leave a Comment (3)

Georgia wrote on Jul 14:

An artist can never not think about art- this is my conclusion after reading your report....or, maybe it's just because you couldn't ;)

enrique wrote on Jul 8:

hehehe, very artful !! saludos !

shinobu wrote on Jul 2:

This is great, Heather, could we please have 10 of these reports in your last month particularly if it will be a few days short!? (; Many of us are curious about what you are doing that you are not calling art (and where you will be standing after RFAOH??)