Classically trained as a figurative painter, Santa Fe artist Katie O’Sullivan challenges the human form by breaking apart its physical attributes to reveal a raw, emotional being. By exposing her characters’ cherished imperfections and unprocessed experiences, O’Sullivan offers a dual perspective on the figure that blends its physical and emotional existence. The result is primal and provocative with separated body parts, piercing eyes and elongated necks, yet alluring and enchanting with relatable sentiments and contemplative titles. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” says the artist of her emotionally challenging imagery.
O’Sullivan’s abstract style is a rebellious response to her classical and technical artistic training. Having always been drawn to the artistry of the human form, the New-Jersey born artist enrolled in every portrait-painting workshop or figure drawing class she could, even while majoring in graphic design at Parson’s School of Design in New York City. Through her graphic studies, O’Sullivan developed strong foundational skills in technical illustration, however, her skillset soon became obsolete to the industry as graphic design entered a new phase with the development of the computer. Faced with a career shift, O’Sullivan took the opportunity to travel.
She moved to Florida and worked on private yachts as a deckhand and dive instructor for five years, during which she traveled to the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and the Amazon River teaching scuba diving and exploring new cultures. Following her travels, O’Sullivan lived in northern California and took annual trips to Santa Fe, eventually moving to the southwest in 2015. She had continued to paint throughout her life experiences but didn’t pursue it as a full-time profession until 2014. Now in Santa Fe, O’Sullivan’s painting career is reaching new heights as she immerses herself in her work surrounded by an artistically driven community.
O’Sullivan’s paintings are reflections of the artist’s travels, studies, personal experiences and visceral feelings, while also taking on a life of their own as emotionally charged figures push and pull their way onto the canvas. When paintings leave the studio, the dialogue between artist and canvas is complete, however, the narrative continues to evolve as viewers and collectors enter the conversation and breathe new life into the work.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
Hi – my name is Katie O’Sullivan. I have been making art for as long as I can remember. The smell of crayons still takes me back to my childhood and sitting on the floor for hours scribbling and drawing and making a mess and loving it. I continued making art and ended up getting a BFA from Parsons School of Design in NYC.
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
I currently live in Santa Fe, NM, and go into my studio everyday and work. Whether its working on paintings or in a sketchbook, I love the act of creating and exploring new ideas and techniques. I would say my paintings are a reflection of my personal experiences and visceral feelings.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspired by being out in the world. I love traveling, being out in nature, and studying art history. I never know where inspiration might come from, I just keep an open mind, take it all in, and see what comes out in the studio.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I love it when viewers can identify with my paintings in a personal way – and see and feel their own desires, struggles, joys, and fears.
When do you know that an artwork is finished ?
Never – lol. That is why I usually have 3 different paintings on the go. Sometimes its best to just step away from the canvas I am working on and let it be for a while. I still overwork pieces, it’s all a learning process that I find challenging and exciting.
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
I always find it exciting when someone comments on one of my paintings saying they can relate to it on a personal level, that this is exactly how they are feeling at the moment. That human connection is so meaningful.
How long does it take to produce one work?
Each piece is different, sometimes a couple of days, sometimes a couple of weeks. Each painting has a life of its own – some are easy and reveal themselves right away– some are more difficult to coax out.
What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks?
I am working on a new series – still in early stages. You can follow me on FB and IG to see when I start posting these.
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I will be having a 2 person show at Keep Contemporary in Santa Fe, NM in fall of 2019