Kim Rice – Studio visit at School 33 Arts Center in Baltimore, MD.
August, 2022. Interview Between Alex Ebstein and Kim Rice
Kim Rice is an artist who transforms everyday materials and personal imagery into intricate, often large-scale installations that explore systemic racism as it has affected physical geography and personal history. I met Kim through her residency at Goucher College as the Unobskey Visiting Artist in Modern and Contemporary Art and had the pleasure of learning more about her work and process through conversations both in her studio and on campus. Her labor-intensive pieces are impeccably crafted, drawing viewers from across a space with their beauty, and delivering their critical content on closer approach. I met up with Kim in her studio at School 33 in Federal Hill to continue our conversations for Inertia Studio Visits and check in on what this prolific artist is up to next.
– Alex Ebstein
Alex: Where did you grow up and how do you think it influenced your work?
Kim: I grew up primarily between Oklahoma and California. Those two locations made a pretty profound impact on my work because Oklahoma is extremely conservative, christian and segregated. California played a huge role too in that it was a stark contrast to Oklahoma.
Fresno had so many different types of people and religions that I was interacting with everyday. It was really eye opening for me and made me reconsider the early years of how I was raised and how I thought about the world. Thinking about the world in a more global context, a multi-racial, multi-religious context played a profound role in my life and work. The majority of my friends in high school were Persian and Latinx.. The way they were perceived vs myself by the police is still something I contemplate while working in my studio today.
A: What is a typical day like in your studio?
K: I usually ride my bike and catch a free ferry boat. I’m here for a minimum of five hours or longer depending on my kids’ schedule. I turn on some music or if I really feel the need to binge Netflix I’ll turn that on, but I usually have something playing in the background. I work with materials; for example, right now I’m working on this floor piece that’s killing my back, but I try to move around and stretch, work, stretch…
During the day I’m working on one piece a day, but overall I work on multiple pieces.
A: What is the significance of the colors and materials in your work?
K: When it comes to my work, the color doesn’t really come into play too much because the materials decide the color. Whether I’m working with maps, caution tape, danger tape, quilts, zip ties, etc….whatever I’m working on, the color is chosen by the object. I try to be true to the material and not make it into something it’s not. So right now my studio is very red and yellow which is not a color palette I would choose, but it’s because of the caution and danger tape.
A: How do you deal with lack of motivation in your studio or difficulty in making new work?
K: I’m a big believer in deadlines. My dad once said to me, “creativity nothing; give me a deadline,” and I really latched onto that idea. When I’m in a lull, I start applying for things. I have deadlines for a strict creative work process. I also make myself show up everyday. Some days people don’t want to go to their jobs and they have to go. Being an artist is very similar. This idea that we’re hit with rainbows and butterflies inspiration is just not true. So I talk about this as my job and I try to own that. When I’m coming here, I say I’m going to work and I show up.
Music also gives me extra energy, large amounts of caffeine, of course, but being in the space with the materials and working with those materials forces ideas in a way that sitting around hoping for one never could. That’s kind of a sketching process for me–working with materials and seeing what they can do.
Reading also helps to inspire work.
But the day to day process is mainly making yourself show up and come into the studio. It’s a grind, but you get these moments of inspiration and joy, however it’s not as romantic as people think. For example, the piece I’m doing right now is really mundane but I just have to do it. The more exciting times happen when you first formulate the idea or something clicks, as well as when you see it finished and the work accomplishes what you wanted it to do.
A: How do you determine when a piece is finished?
K: It’s usually intuitive knowing. Sometimes the space a piece is meant for restricts it as far as sizing. For my mandalas, for example, they could go on forever without restrictions.
However, many times I do think “maybe this should be bigger,” but there is often not enough space to grow as big as you want. That’s why I’m hoping for more museum opportunities because then you can really go big.
A: Your work looks at the idea of accountability and how you center yourself in that. Do you work in a different way when you’re using your own image?
K: In my Inheritance series I use my ancestors’ information and images. In Complicit, Soft Power, and Open Carry I use my own image. I think they take ownership of whiteness in a different way than pieces that are more data driven or universal. These pieces are built differently in that they are much more planned out and less intuitive. I think that has more to do with aesthetics than content though. In those pieces I am using photographs and written content instead of a material that I can manipulate differently.
A: What was the first piece that you felt became its own piece and not a material test?
K: For my series Caution, it was the first piece I did with caution tape. It actually came easily because it was during Covid, the George Floyd protests, the Jan. 6 insurrection…the whole world was blowing up at the same time and I was having some intense conversations with my family. I was walking through a hardware store, which I tend to do sometimes for inspiration, and I saw the caution tape and I really felt I needed it. I started crocheting it and made a large mandala piece, but while I was crocheting it, I thought I was doing it just to do it – because I needed a place to direct my energy. I was being bombarded with information and feeling helpless to do anything while living in a remote area of Wisconsin. I started creating that piece and it ended up being very successful. I didn’t actually know what it was going to do or how it was going to be. When I stretched it out on a wall, I realized it was a piece.
The target wreath and welcome mat came after that. Those were very intentional. I was in a town in Louisiana which propelled those pieces. I would run through this neighborhood every day and the way I perceived it, led to those two pieces. It wasn’t until I moved into my current studio that I started to experiment more with those materials.
A: Do you have anything to promote or upcoming exhibitions?
K: I’m in an exhibition called Unveiling Resistance at CCBC- Essex, MD. I have artwork in Form and Guesture ll up at Interloc projects in Thomaston, ME. Art Maryland 2022 is opening in October at the HCAC Gallery in Ellicot City, MD. I am heading to Israel in October for a residency that will have a NYC exhibition component to it and then I am working towards a 2023 solo show at the Top of the World gallery in Baltimore.
All images courtesy of the artist, Goucher College, and Vivian Marie Doering