Sophisticated Tenderness opens at Hecho a Mano on Friday, September 29, and will be on view through October 23.
“Our greatest threat is indifference,” says painter, illustrator, printmaker and ceramicist Kat Kinnick. “Gentleness and cooperation are guides, whether it be protecting the water and wild animals, raising a family, or the softness inside of ourselves and our closest loved ones.”
This theme of tenderness and care informed Kinnick’s upcoming show at Hecho a Mano. Her prints and oil paintings feature animals—many of them young and vulnerable—and people in gestures of surrender to the inevitability of nature.
“The prints are centered around letting yourself love, and letting go—loving despite the potential loss and risk,” Kinnick says. “They’re also about celebrating cuteness, tenderness and beauty in nature, and likewise, inside ourselves.”
Some of the prints illustrate figures and events from the artist’s life. One print, called Says Phoebe, shows birds that built a nest on her porch. Another depicts a girl crying in the rain, which Kinnick says “is based on a moment when I felt at a loss and the weight of the world was too much and I sat outside in a lightning storm and let myself be drenched by the rain.”
The show will also include functional ceramics and ceramic sculptures: a first for Kinnick’s exhibitions. She studied interdisciplinary sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art, exploring mediums from bronze casting, to woodworking, to weaving. She describes the process of sculpting animals for her new show as a tactile understanding: “It’s been such an exciting process of discovery, and also a new relationship to the forms—I get to touch, hug and hold them.”
Her subjects, the plants and animals of northern New Mexico, are familiar to her.“ As an artist, there’s solidarity in the fact that animals and land don’t use verbal language to communicate, and we have to be patient and gentle to hear them,” Kinnick says. “My art creates a world where animals are reflections of our inner landscape.”
To Kinnick, tenderness means nurturing a relationship to other beings—and to yourself—that “softens, awakens, pays attention to and is curious… it’s one of the most sophisticated, grounded qualities,” she says.
“The presence of nature offers clarity. Nature tells us who we are, and asks us to take these gems we’ve found inside ourselves to share with the world. Each person has the capacity to find different gems.”
Kinnick’s part-time job restoring Navajo rugs informs her understanding of color. “I have to mix yarns together to match the colors in the rugs in the spots I’m re-weaving, and the practice has really inspired a heightened color sensitivity,” she says.
The themes Kinnick has explored in her past shows at Hecho a Mano, Abundance/Impermanence and A Culture of Wilderness, are still relevant to her work, but now, she’s more keenly focused on relationships than individual beings. “I’ve always been a fan of dualities and complements: loss and love, cute and fierce, harmony and dissonance. As an artist, it’s my world—I can create whatever and whoever I want, the energies and personalities, and the stories I long for.”
Her new exhibition is inspired by the strength it takes to be sensitive. “The animals look at you, you are seen by them, and they ask you to, likewise, see them,” Kinnick says. “The world is asking for you to listen, and each of our wild, timeless souls inside of us are asking us to listen.”