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Katherine Charney will graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2019 with a BFA in Printmaking. Her work traverses printmaking, poetry and object collecting.


“I want to argue in favor of a nature-culture continuum which stresses embodied and embrained immanence and includes negotiations and interactions with bio-genetics and neurosciences, but also environmental sciences, gender, ethnicity and disability studies.”      --Rosi Braidotti

I approach the print as assemblage, which over time resembles a loose narrative. Most poems are loose narratives. Some of my prints are poems. Some of my poems are prints.

These particular prints and drawings tell a loose narrative of ecological isolation, central to which are the objects—the cattails, the standing desks, the holes we leave when we take from mounds. Cattails interest me for a number of reasons. A phallus-like form, which filters, absorbs and harbors toxins from its environment — one could argue the cattail defies binary gender. Their cultural value is regionally specific; the Algonquin tribe of North America used their pollen and rhizome medicinally; in the Old Testament, Moses emerges from a patch of cattails.

Cattails, cypress and bacteria share a common ability to purify water and soil from contaminants that include petroleum products and PCBs. These ecologies of remediation endow hope to the doomsday scenario outlook we’ve come to rely upon within our privileged enclaves. I am not interested in bio and phytoremediation because cleaner water and soil will reduce atmospheric carbon (it won’t). These modalities are of interest because when the earth warms and the seas rise, we still need to eat.

Climate change is a global and volatile saturation of fossil fuels; put simply, it is a contamination of all air, water and land by molecules that absorb sunlight and produce heat, thus destroying billions of ecosystems reliant upon a delicate pre-industrial temperature setting. This quandary has laid bare the unique inseparableness of life on earth coupled with a splintering of climate into minutiae of spacetime. If a coal furnace burns in Ohio in 1987, that atmospheric carbon might absorb heat over decades, leading to a tropical hurricane in 2011. By drawing connections between seemingly disparate events and phenomena, I seek to include and empower my viewers in this discourse so that we might collectively combat fatalism.

In works such as “For Parts or Repair,” biology textbooks, poetry, and personal memories of wilderness come together on paper so that you might situate yourself within the layers of environmental contamination. I collect and reconstruct imagery observed from maps, geological surveys, atomic microscopes and industrial tragedies. What draws me to these images is a fixation on state and more specifically, on the economic and spatial trajectory of fossil objects. In telling a nonlinear narrative, I collapse spacetime by situating the gaseous liquid beside its solid form. This urgency mirrors that of the environmental crisis— something often referred to as ecological anxiety.

I consider printmaking as poetry; the death and rebirth of a matrix, the marriage of oil and water, a heavy hand and sweet release. Integral to the printmaking process is the element of chance; one cannot always control the outcome of plate-making or screen-printing. By releasing the plate or screen to the possibility of environmental interference, I welcome a spectrum of marks detached from the artist’s hand. This dissociative process mirrors the experience of environmental catastrophe; somehow a product of my doing yet uncontrollable and irreversible.