about Kate

Born in Busan, Korea, Kate Bae holds an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, both in painting. She is currently an artist-in-residence at 320 West 23rd Street in New York City via ChaShaMa Space to Create program. If you would like a studio visit, please e-mail katebae@gmail.com.


I am an artist who is guided by the love of painting and experiments with paint materials. My work stems from a neurosis, a skin-picking syndrome called excoriation disorder — I continually peel the skin on the inner corner of my thumb. The act of peeling skin gives me absolute pleasure and satisfaction, so it is hard to stop. I am pretty sure I formed the habit when I was transplanted from Busan to Chicago at the age of fifteen against my wishes; I wanted to stay in Korea. As an adult, I discovered that peeling off dry paint with my fingernails was a very productive way to deal with anxiety. This led me to experiment with paint materials and pouring paints on to every surface imaginable. 

After experimenting for a while, I realized silicone or plastic sheets work the best when you want to peel paint off from the surface cleanly. After pouring paint into specific shapes, I wait for the paint to dry for a few days for it and then peel off the layers and physically reshape the dried paint bits. Although acrylic paint is a porous medium, when it dries it becomes essentially plastic. The physicality of building paint skins in nature’s forms strengthens the plastic feel, yet the paint breathes and is alive because it interacts with temperature and moisture. 

The process ultimately changes the identity of painting, which transforms when there is no canvas, brushstrokes, or content: it exists only as material. The painting becomes something else, not quite sculpture but not quite painting, either — something in between the two- and three-dimensional planes. The result helps me see the physical and psychological borders I create as I search for ways to activate paintings in open space. As a non-native English speaker, pushing the boundaries of painting and its language feels like a gesture that corresponds to my feelings about awareness and shaving layers off myself, an experience parallel to my own navigation through life as an immigrant woman.   


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