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Interview with Kacey Slone, CCAH’s Second Artist-In-Residence, 2022

Kacey Slone in her studio in the Sally Newkirk Gallery at Carnegie Center for Art & History

On Friday June 3rd, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kacey Slone, a multidisciplinary artist from Southern Indiana who is the Carnegie Center for Art and History’s 2022 Artist in Residence. Slone is using the Newkirk Gallery as her personal art studio for 9 weeks, throughout the duration of the Form, Not Function exhibition. Click on the Artist in Residence link above and you’ll see that it takes you to the “Public Art” section of the Carnegie Center’s website. That’s because our Artist Residency program doesn’t fall under the category of Exhibitions, or Events, although it may include aspects of those things. Our Residency provides a space for an Indiana artist to think and create, and it provides an opportunity for the public to witness the process behind an artists’ work. 

Read on to learn more about Kacey, and mark your calendars for Thursday Night Salon on July 7th at 5:30, when we will host her artist talk along with a free reception with music, refreshments, and hands-on experiences. 

~Julie Leidner, Carnegie Center Creative Leader of Exhibitions and Education

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JL: Let’s start by talk about your interesting art education background! You have an MFA, two BFAs, and an associates degree?

KS: I have an associates degree in photography, and I do have two BFAs—one in graphic design and one in printmaking. I have too many degrees—haha! It’s embarrassing. I have this interest in everything, so I knew I wanted to go to a grad program where I wouldn’t just have to do printmaking, where I was going to be allowed to have freedom to learn new things and to dabble in like, sculpture. And UTA’s [The University of Texas at Arlington] program is in Intermedia.

I think that the downside to the UTA program is it’s a small program—I came in with only four other students, and I came there with no friends. I felt like really lonely in the very beginning of it because I went to grad school like a little bit later; I lived here [Indiana] until I was like 26 years old. I’ve had the same best friend since I was in high school. It felt like a really big leap, and for the first couple months it was a sad time. 

I can relate to that! The first time I ever left Louisville was when I went to Providence RI for grad school. I didn’t have any friends—it was terrifying. But also a wonderfully growing experience. 

Absolutely. I have goosebumps. Because it does feel like that, it really made me be comfortable with relying on myself. I had to like myself, because I was all I had. I think it took me a while, it took maybe like my first year until I wasn’t homesick. I feel like that’s actually partly what made me choose to go to Texas for my MFA because in undergrad my work was really about “home,” so I was like, I needed to make work that challenged that. So I moved away to kind of see how my thoughts about home would change, and then I really just became interested in my environment and how I am the constant—my body is the constant. 

Kacey Slone, installation view of A Long Goodbye // MFA Thesis Exhibition, UTA

Can you talk a little bit more about the themes of loneliness in your work? Did that kind of get refined during your grad school days? 

I really think that it did. I’ve realized even now being away from the MFA program and having this comfortable life here, that I am, like, a lonely person. And I think that maybe that comes with being an artist, because you do spend so much time in your head. And you can’t totally get people to understand it, so there’s a loneliness in not being able to be understood. So I think that is a big part of why I’m an artist, is wanting to feel understood, wanting to understand other people. And there is this private part to everyone, like everyone experiences loneliness. So I think that’s a really big thing that came from grad school: I was actually lonely but I was realizing these are familiar feelings. 

And how did those feelings manifest in your work? 

Going into grad school where I had this freedom, I started out making cyanotypes because that fit my concept quite a bit—I felt comfortable making cyanotypes and also historically, cyanotypes were used to like document plants, and I thought it was interesting that you were picking the plants out of their normal environment, and that that’s kind of how I felt being in Texas.

Kacey Slone, installation view of Separate / Separate, a series of cyanotype prints using the artist’s hair

You teach digital art at IUS, and you work as a gallery manager for both the Barr Gallery at IUS and the Pat Harrison Fine Art + Design Gallery at Ivy Tech. What do you do at those galleries as manager?

Both of them are very different. I worked at the Pat Harrison Gallery in Ivy Tech before I went to grad school, so I had this job already but they elevated it quite a bit. There I do tons of things: I do all of the promotional materials—I design it, I print it, I distribute it. I also kind of work as the chair’s assistant so I’m working on the budget for the whole program. I also work for their classrooms I help with their computers, I help the students, I also print their projects on large format printers, and then I do the regular gallery stuff—I hang the show, frame things, I light the show, so I do a lot there. 

At IUS they just created this job title, so it is a little bit newer. All of the gallery programming for this past year had already been chosen, so it’s kind of cool I’ll soon get to have a little bit of say about what shows are going to be there, and I’ll get to curate how things are in the space. I’m working on the faculty show. That’ll be like the first show I get to do, and I’m setting it up so it’s be about their process or their craft—and I’m organizing a panel for the students so they can ask questions about the faculty’s process and craft or like the community.

Is curating or designing exhibitions something you’d like to pursue as part of your career?

Yes, eventually I want to have my own gallery—and this is something I’m working really hard to do with my friend Kathryn Combs. I want to have a studio space where I can have exactly like what the Carnegie has: workshops that are accessible to whoever wants to take them, and I wanna have equipment that helps people make the art that they wanna make. I know that this is a lot of hard work and I don’t know how to do it, but that’s what I want to be doing. And I feel like I’m taking steps to do that. I’m fine with adjuncting right now and I can live off of what I’m making, and I would like to continue to do that and open up a space in this area, because I love it here. 

So, you and Kathryn Combs are starting a studio together—in New Albany? That so exciting!

Yeah! We have a studio space, we both live in the same apartment complex and our studio is in the basement so we can just walk there. Eventually we’d like to have a space that is more than a basement, but it is huge. We want to be able to collaborate with other artists and take on like print commissions. We just got our stickers and our studio is called Junior Jr.  We’re gonna have a more official launch, but we have a Patreon and we have an Instagram that we just made. We’re gonna have a studio warming party in July after I get done here. 

We just bought a Risograph together. Which is really cool for the area, there’s only two or three. We’re gonna have two drums first. We have pink and black. We’re trying to like get our third drum and a fourth drum, and then we can pretty much print anything because we’ll have CMYK. That is like a really big thing that I’m excited about—we just need more money so we can get more drums for the Risograph, and drums are like $800. Each drum is one color.

We’re a really good pair together—Kathryn is like the business-minded side of this and I really like designing things. She is one of my dearest, and I’m so excited about doing this with her because we just mesh so well together.

Kacey Slone and Kathryn Combs, Junior Jr. logo

What are you going to do with your time here in the residency here at the Carnegie Center? 

So I’ve been using this as my studio space, but I feel like all my projects carry over into my practice, so I have spent time with like thinking about Junior Jr here [at the Carnegie Center], and we met about Junior Jr here. Actually when we first got the Risograph, we didn’t have the basement studio space yet, and I was like, “man I hope I get the Carnegie thing because we could like put it in here!” But yeah, I would say I‘d love to bring it here, but we got it downstairs and that was like—it’s not going anywhere, cuz this is like a 300 pound machine (laughter).

I am planning on making a photo book that touches on body image and intimacy and using food as a vehicle for those concepts. I also have ideas for a few smaller things that I’d like to work on while I’m waiting for film to come back—I do work pretty all over the place; I multitask a lot. There’s a sculpture that I would like to try to make with some of my old sculptures. So I have these casted corn pieces, and then I just made these little picture shelves—like for my show at Houseguest—and I’d like to make a really long shelf for some of those corn.

Kacey Slone, Residue, a 20 page zine made of film photographs, drawings and collections from quarantine.

What other things do you have going on that would you like to share?

It’s kind of in flux right now because it’s kind of a new collective, but I’m a part of the Rural Midwest Artist Collective. It’s like artists from everywhere in the Midwest; a lot of them are from Wyoming, some of them are from Tennessee. And the artists—they like reached out to me to apply and I looked at their stuff and I was like “What? This is cool artwork, and now I’m a part of that group!” I don’t know, sometimes you have imposter syndrome as an artist, but like it gives me this sense of like, “I’m with these people,” (laughter). We apply to shows together. We had a show called Common Threads in Lincoln Nebraska and we all sent in a piece and then one of the people who like lived there installed everything. So our work gets shown together.

One thing that we talk about quite often is how to show that art is a practical thing for young people—this is something that I believe in. Living in rural towns, art is not seen as a practical job or a practical thing to go into studying. Art was not even like a program in my high school; I didn’t take art classes in high school. Like we did all have to take it, but we all just drew in our sketchbooks—we didn’t learn much of anything. I feel like I’m like late to life as an artist, you know?

But like it’s not seen as a practical thing, so I really want to be part of this community that shows that this is a job. Like, I have a billion jobs! You can get a job being an artist, and it is practical. And like, being from a cornfield, it’s like . . . I want to bring those people into these spaces. That is like the mission of the Rural Midwest Artist Collective, to bring art to rural places. 

One of the things I like about the Carnegie Center is that we’re a part of the public library, and we try to help bring art to the community. However we’re still in a Carnegie library that was built on a hill, to look like an imposing institution. And a lot of people may not come in because it doesn’t look from the outside like a space for them.

That’s something that I think about all the time especially with Junior Jr.  I really want to have my own space, so how am I going to make it where anyone can feel comfortable? I had a pretty weird growing up, and school was a comfortable place for me to be, always. I was really big involved in school—I was student council president when I was little, I was in color guard, I just feel like being in a community where you feel safe enough to create something is like the purpose. That is a big part of what I want to do or accomplish as an artist and like citizen of the world in this community. Sounds like really big, I don’t know how I’m going to do it (laughter). 

I mean, I think it’s possible. Bit by bit. 🙂

– JL

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