KATE PETLEY | This Bright Day


KATE PETLEY | This Bright Day
Jan 20 – Mar 26, 2022


“This Bright Day”

“My process endeavors to incorporate the expectations of photography, with its capacity to mediate visual experience – with painting, where the physical is experienced by using hand-held tools. Photography intervenes in how light is prioritized, and I elevate this aspect by using intense color and lighting to deliver that luminous surface directly to the senses. Moving the photograph into painting territory erases boundaries and alters the meaning of both. They are fluid. Although they are not interchangeable mediums, the approach I take prioritizes photography – yet produces an ‘object’ that is perceived as a painting. Because the raw materials that I use for the photographic content, paper, cardboard or various films, are often painted before constructing the intensely lit arrangements, the relationship to painting is inherent. Amplified by the increased scale when the photograph is printed to canvas, painted ‘marks’ are further employed in service of blurring that boundary between mediums. That boundary fascinates me because its exploration is inexhaustible as my work may not be immediately understood, or easily assigned meaning to figure out exactly how it was made. The image slows down this tendency with an emphasis on not thinking, instead, to react from a place of sensation and feeling. This happens, in part, because of the dissonance that occurs between the illusion of depth in the photograph and the flatness of the surface which gives no clues regarding the application of paint. It is not easily apparent what’s paint and what isn’t.

Materiality vs depiction is at play, messing with the mechanics of visual perception. Photography is the perfect medium for this. Adding selectively painted areas in an undetectable manner inserts my hand directly into that image altering the experience of the image in a tangible way. Printing onto canvas transmits different sensations than those that come from photo paper.

While the transformation of common materials is completed by immersing them in carefully lit environments, the real inspiration lies in the purpose.  I’m interested in exploring transformation as a universally held experience with all of the implied mystery it contains. We know it when we see it… or feel it. Photography possesses a unique power to advance vision itself. This seems relevant today, considering the dominance of the backlit screen and how it has altered what is expected of photographic images.  The long history of the luminous surface is now linked to that backlit screen. Scale plays a role in the pursuit of transformation. Taking the internal world of sensation instead of the external world of pictures for my subject means that I must consider scale to help carry the impact. 

 My attention continues to be focused on creating images that affect the deepest levels of vision and I am less concerned with the fact that my approach uses both pigment-based and light-based methods. This lofty and perhaps improbable goal to unite these seemingly disparate approaches animates my decisions and keeps me digging away at the possibilities year after year. Upon rising each morning, I tell myself that I have ‘this one bright day,’ in acknowledgment that my influence applies only to the present moment. The vulnerability of the human condition is implied. This proclamation began in 2020 and continues as a greeting. Importantly, it contains a built-in recognition of light itself as a tangible thing.”

- Kate Petley

National Endowment for the Arts Rockefeller Foundation grant recipient Kate Petley obtained a BFA cum laude from the University of Utah in sculpture and ceramics. A recipient of a Ucross Foundation fellowship, Petley’s work has been exhibited in a multitude of solo and group exhibitions including the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Museum of South Texas, the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe; FotoFest Houston; the Nicolaysen Art Museum; the Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University; the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, TX; the Arlington Museum of Art; and a recently concluded solo exhibition at the University of Colorado Boulder Art Museum. Petley also served as a guest curator at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary art in 2021.