Katy Cowan: Katy Cowan's Outdoor Sculptures

  • Katy Cowan's Outdoor Sculptures

  • Katy Cowan 'and dial and shift and phase and support,' 2019 Oil and enamel, graphite on cast aluminum 66 1/2...
    Katy Cowan
    "and dial and shift and phase and support," 2019
    Oil and enamel, graphite on cast aluminum
    66 1/2 x 23 1/2 x 61 in
    168.9 x 59.7 x 154.9 cm
  • Katy Cowan 'Suns Pass,' 2020 Oil and enamel paint, graphite on cast aluminum 80 x 40 x 36 in 203.2...
    Katy Cowan
    "Suns Pass," 2020
    Oil and enamel paint, graphite on cast aluminum
    80 x 40 x 36 in
    203.2 x 101.6 x 91.4 cm
  • Katy Cowan 'To advance into...the Waves (Position),' 2020 Oil and enamel paint, graphite on cast aluminum, 2-part 40 x 60...
    Katy Cowan
    "To advance into...the Waves (Position)," 2020
    Oil and enamel paint, graphite on cast aluminum, 2-part
    40 x 60 x 2 in
    101.6 x 152.4 x 5.1 cm
  • Katy Cowan has long had an interest in working outdoors, and in making pieces that connect the decisions of her studio practice with our experience of viewing artworks in a landscape. In this “In the Studio” feature, Cowan shares images of new works and gives an inside perspective on her monumental installation at Lynden Sculpture Garden. 
  • 'How could I extend my practice in such a way that remained consistent with my conceptual concerns, while offering homage...

    "How could I extend my practice in such a way that remained consistent with my conceptual concerns, while offering homage to the landscape I had grown up in and loved so much?"

    –Katy Cowan

  • Interview with Katy Cowan:
    The sculpture "Reflector" came out of a larger exhibition at The Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee, WI in 2017. For this exhibition, I was given complete access to the interior traditional gallery space and the lush and expansive outdoor sculpture grounds. What was exciting and terrifying to me about this opportunity, was that I had never worked outdoors in a significant way. So, some questions I began with were: how could I create works in a meaningful way that could reside within such a lush and visually powerful landscape? How could I extend my practice in such a way that remained consistent with my conceptual concerns, while offering homage to the landscape I had grown up in and loved so much? How could I situate my outdoor pieces so that they interacted with both the viewer and the landscape in a compelling way? And what material could I use that would withstand years of outdoor exposure?
  • 'I was drawn to these places because they showed signs of life, fluctuation, and were part of the natural landscape...

    "I was drawn to these places because they showed signs of life, fluctuation, and were part of the natural landscape that Lynden resides in."

  • The only thing I knew for sure about making outdoor pieces was that I did not want them to be big, bright sculptures on concrete pedestals that would be situated “nicely” on the grounds. This sort of sculptural interaction with the outdoors did not meet my conceptual intentions. Instead, I was trying to find a way that my sculptures could interact with the natural movements and life of the prairie while simultaneously drawing viewers to places on the Lynden grounds that may have been overlooked. So, I began my process for “Reflector” walking the grounds, observing the shifts in the landscape (both water and land), and making lots of sketches. And I found myself drawn to places that had little to no sculptures: I spent a lot of time in the overgrown prairies, hanging out on the bridges, sitting by the pond edges, and resting under trees. I was drawn to these places because they showed signs of life, fluctuation, and were part of the natural landscape that Lynden resides in. These were the places I ended up proposing my sculptures to be, and I approached these sites in various ways.
  • 'I began my process walking the grounds...and I found myself drawn to places that had little to no sculptures: I...

    "I began my process walking the grounds...and I found myself drawn to places that had little to no sculptures: I spent a lot of time in the overgrown prairies, hanging out on the bridges, sitting by the pond edges, and resting under trees." 

  • Once I had determined the location and material for "Reflector," I then had to figure out the subject matter in order to make a mold to cast in bronze. For this exhibition, I was working with references to the Wisconsin prairie, the human body, and everyday objects. I selected these same sorts of references for "Reflector," but wanted to compose them with the site-specificity in mind. I wanted to show the rippling and fluctuating movement in water within my bronze form. To do this I worked to have the subject matter appear as if it were ebbing and flowing through one another - so breasts morph into cornflowers that morph into ropes that morph into tube socks that morph into noses and mouths. After I had decided on this composition, I reproduced the forms in hard foam, ropes and plasticine that I then made a sand-mold from. After the sand mold was created, it was prepped for the bronze pour.
     
  • 'I became drawn to the active life of the metal when poured and dripped from the crucible – it did...

    "I became drawn to the active life of the metal when poured and dripped from the crucible – it did not seem like a material that should be so contained."

  • When we casted "Reflector" my only goal in the bronze pour was to somewhat fill the sand mold I had created...An advantage to working at this particular foundry was that I had a voice in how pours could result, and I became very interested in incomplete or mistaken pours. The reason for this is that these sorts of inconsistencies was where I found an interest in working with bronze. Where most foundries strive for perfect replication, that sort of result was of no interest to me. I became drawn to the active life of the metal when poured and dripped from the crucible - it did not seem like a material that should be so contained and perfected.
  • While "Reflector" has the ability to be raised up and down, I have not yet asked Lynden to adjust its height. The advantage of having lived in the area for the year following its installation was that I was able to visit the piece in all the seasons. From visiting at these different times (and throughout the years), I discovered that the piece was fluctuating and adapting to its environment in ways I had not anticipated. Some summers it rests parallel to the surface, and some it hides a few inches below the water line. One winter it was perfectly parallel to the ice, and another it stood a few inches above. One summer the pond's frog population used it as a sun-pad. What I found from these long-term observations was that, rather than forcing it to remain at the constant I thought I had wanted, "Reflector" actually needed to be in fluctuation to fulfill my original concept.
  • 'How could I work with these sorts of fluctuations and embody them in a sculpture that is seized in one,...

    "How could I work with these sorts of fluctuations and embody them in a sculpture that is seized in one, final position?"

  • I really wanted to draw attention to the fluctuations that occur in the physical and emotional landscape that is particular to Wisconsin. There is so much to take in yearly and so much drama - a sort of frenzy of summer, the calm of fall, the depression of winter, or the waking up of spring. And when this exhibition was opening in the peak of summer, I was thinking about the energy of human bodies, the vibrancy of life in the prairies and lakes, and the long days of activity that gently fold into evenings. 
  • 'For those things I had planned for with this piece, there are many that I had not. And those unplanned...

    "For those things I had planned for with this piece, there are many that I had not. And those unplanned elements have become the most fascinating aspects for me to learn from and observe."

  • This sculpture has become a physical resting place in the summer for the turtles that live in the pond. Further, depending on the yearly rainfall, "Reflector" is either “on view” or is not – meaning, it will sit at the water line or it is engulfed by the raised water level from that year’s rain. Or, it becomes an element embedded in the winter’s freeze – stuck in position with the water frozen around it. For those things I had planned for with this piece, there are many that I had not. And those unplanned elements have become the most fascinating aspects for me to learn from and observe.
  • To read the full interview with Katy Cowan, click here
  • Inquire about works by Katy Cowan