Originally from the East Coast, Katherine Vetne received a BFA from Boston University and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the recipient of SFAI’s Graduate Fellowship in Painting as well as the Allen B. Stone Award. She has exhibited her work in Boston (Samson Projects, 808 Gallery), Los Angeles (Angles Gallery; CB1 Gallery, forthcoming) and San Francisco, where she currently lives and works.
My practice confronts mainstream expectations of American womanhood. My most current work draws from the imagined consumerist desires of a kind of alter ego: an upper-middle class, suburban woman, brimming with over-the-top heterosexuality and striving for the ultimate normative identity. I first unearthed this alter ego by perusing the contents of online wedding registries that were listed under my name, but belonged to strangers. One such registry contained several pieces of Waterford crystal, ranging in price from one to a few hundred dollars per item. This sparked a project in which I purchased one of these items and drew it from life in metalpoint, which requires a drawing stylus made from solid silver or gold. Because of its technically challenging and labor intensive nature, this all-but-obsolete, Renaissance-era medium has historically been used on a very small scale. The use of metalpoint in large and excessive works is a direct challenge to the great male draftsmen of this canonical golden age of pictorial realism.
My sculptures involve firing lead crystal kitchenware in kilns, slumping (or melting) them into flattened forms that appear to take on a viscous, liquid-like consistency. I then mirror the surfaces of these pieces using silver nitrate, heightening their perceived value as well as creating reflective surfaces that create warped images of the world around them.
Taking cues from the historical association of still life as a “feminine” genre alongside contemporary painting’s somewhat distrusted reputation as the ultimate art commodity, my work exists as a dissection of the ways in which gender identity and capitalism intersect. Much in the way that our culture simultaneously exalts and depraves the mainstream American woman, my work simultaneously exalts and disfigures the heirlooms of the American nuclear family.