CAST Contributor Spotlight: Katherine Rutecki
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
There's no question about it, Katherine Rutecki soars with her own wings.
While we were curating CAST: Art and Objects Made Using Humanity's Most Transformational Process and scouring the internet for artists who use our favorite process, Katherine Rutecki's work stopped us in our tracks. Her aptitude in creating distinct dynamic compositions over and over again with a single element (the bird), reimagining their relationships, and expressing such different sensibilities, is remarkable. Many would see the strict parameters of using a single element as limiting, but it seems to allow her to explore her work and concepts more deeply. Rutecki's birds can be aggressive, sexual, tender, needy, exalted... but they are always animated and always have the appearance that their creation was effortless.
Katherine casts her birds in both glass and in bronze. Like a handful of other artists we encountered in our quest for images, she is equally adroit in both mediums.
One of the things we love about casting is that once you have a mold, there are countless casting mediums to explore. Some mediums require specialized molds - ceramic shell for bronze or refractory for glass, for example - but those are single-use "waste molds" that get destroyed in the casting process. For involved pieces of sculpture, there's typically another mold involved, a silicone rubber one that's used earlier in the process to preserve and reproduce the original model. This rubber mold is used to create multiple wax models that are then dipped in ceramic shell or encased in refractory to create the waste mold used in the final casting. It is the rubber mold that can be used over and over again to create multiple wax models to be burned out in the lost wax casting process. Once the waste mold that cloaks the wax model is in place, the wax is burned out leaving a cavity in the waste mold, and the casting medium is poured (in the case of bronze) or packed into that cavity (in the case of crystal, chunks of cold broken crystal are placed in the mold and are melted in a kiln to fill the cavity) creating the final glass or bronze object.
We found some great process photos of kiln casting one of her crystal pieces on Katherine's blog, "Box of Birds": There are more photos on her blog than here, but these images illustrate what was described above - the two types of molds, the rubber one for creating multiple wax models, and the waste mold that actually goes in the kiln for casting the crystal and is destroyed in the process of removing the crystal casting.
Rutecki's bronze birds feel like they are of the earth - the opacity of bronze, its color, and its connection to classical sculpture make these pieces feel strong and grounded. The details in her forms are highlighted by her skillful finishing and nuanced use of patina.
Cast crystal gives the birds an entirely different feeling. Opaque black crystal turns the birds sinister - crystalline, Hitchcock-esque, and macabre. The translucent color, on the other hand, makes the birds glow, transmitting a soft but vivid light. In this material, they become ethereal, light, radiant, sublime.
This exploration into materiality is something we discussed throughout the process of writing CAST. Artists who cast similar - or identical - forms in multiple materials were some that we went back to again and again in our conversations. Casting allows these investigations in a way that other processes do not: a single form can be rendered with entirely different sensibilities by casting in different materials, exploring color, transparency/transluceny/opacity, and finish.
Katherine Rutecki's approach - her savvy use of materials, her profound understanding of her subject matter, and her deep dive into recombining her forms - results in fascinating variations on a theme. We are so thrilled to have members of Katherine's fascinating flock in CAST.
Katherine has been spreading her wings lately (forgive the cliché - I couldn't help myself). She's exploring performance art, enormous drawings, and new forms in glass. Check it all out on Katherine's website HERE!