Katy Delahanty has had a diverse background within her professional career as an artist, teacher, advocate, mediator, and case manager. She bridges many disciplines and knows that her training at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art transformed her thinking in that she now has an interdisciplinary approach which is reflected in my interests and experiences and career path.
Katy is currently in her newly placed position as the Outreach Program Director for Louisville's Louisville Visual Art, working on Sister's of the Lantern, a collaborative graphic novel (that references the stories of the Sisters in History) alongside fellow artist Julie Leidner discussing the experiences of female activists from the Louisville area, and works with several other organizations and groups such as the Portland Museum and the Portland Art and Heritage Fair whilst working to maintain an active studio practice. Her paintings bridge personal history and fiction.
Five-Dots: When did you move into this studio?
Katy Delahanty: A year and a half ago. I was randomly talking to Noah Howard and his wife and he told me about this space, which led to Danny Seim and Gill Holland arranging for me to be a part of the building. No one wanted to come here to this neighborhood because of its local reputation or grittiness; which reminds me of places like Baltimore and New York. It was authentic and it was a place that I wanted to be. The way I was able to get into this space was by doing a sort of sweat equity as well as paying for the space, but I also work on the building. I clean the HVAC systems, I paint bathrooms, I do all of this random stuff just so I can have this space.
F-D: When you moved in, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?
KD: Well, moving from Louisville to Baltimore to New York, then back to Louisville--seeing how artists really don’t have spaces-- that transient nature really affected how I feel comfortable in a space. This isn’t the way I’d like it, but I never know if I’ll need to move out next month or not because of this precarious sweat equity payment I have. I haven’t really set my roots in here, so what I do is just make work. I sit in here and meditate with things that I have to take care of for my job, or things that I need to take care of with my collaboration with Julie, or just painting and drawing. I’m not necessarily making this a space that people want to hang out in. That’s how this has spatially turned out, it’s more like after thoughts. I just make things.
F-D: Has the location of the studio influenced your work?
KD: It has. I’ve always been interested in history and that is evident even in the work I did at Cooper Union. Then I came here, started becoming more of an adult, and began to realize that when I do this investigative work, the people and relationships matter. Portland has got a rich history and one of the locations in the book that Julie and I are working on will be Portland because of its history within the context of Louisville's history. Working to become more involved in the fiber of the community has also brought me to a conclusion that I want to do more work surrounding or involving them. It is my life now.
F-D: Can you describe a typical day for yourself, inside and outside of the studio?
KD: There is no typical day at this point. I just got a new job a couple of weeks ago as an Outreach Director for Louisville Visual Art, so that’s been hectic. I’m also a new Board Member for the The Portland Museum and we're working to become more financially generative. My typical day, I’ll just come in, work for 30 minutes max, and paint or draw just to keep that continuous motion in my practice. I wholeheartedly feel like I have to make something every day just to stay stimulated and to avoid going through that paralysis that happened before. Being a creative and making art makes me feel calm and helps me balance myself. Ideally the typical day will allow me the ability to take a couple of hours in the evening to work.
F-D: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
KD: Just like my personality and my work style, and all of the things that I dip my fingers in, it’s all over the place. I’m just trying to make things. The stuff with Julie and I is very contextual and very researched, as well as collaborative, which is another world. By myself, it’s just my feelings, the moment in the day, and probably things I need to process in my life. It's therapeutic.
F-D: What type of influence do you take from historic or genre painting?
KD: I think some of my earlier work definitely did. I think that when you’re studying at a foundation painting school like MICA, they really hit you over the head with that. During my college years, I actually let drawing and painting go and did a very different kind of work; but then I ended up revisiting it because that’s what I actually like doing. I think a lot of people who go through graduate programs will start off somewhere and then end up doing something totally different. It’s kind of how Louisville is: you leave for 10 years and then come back. As far as anybody that I’ve been looking at recently for this body of work, it has really just been more about pushing that out. If it’s somehow subliminally getting in there, I’m okay with that, but right now I’m not literally referencing people as I make work.
F-D: What mediums do you work with?
KD: Typically I like painting media. I love anything acrylic. I’ve been trying to explore oil painting as well, just because of the colors that you have access to. With most of my work, I go with things that I know. I love drawing and watercolor; I have been doing some sculptural stuff and dioramas. But for the most part, it’s been acrylic. I would do other things, like clay or silk screen...I’d do it all if it were all readily accessible.
F-D: Can you tell us about your creative process and how it has evolved?
KD: I’ve got two personal sides that effect how I work: one very isolated and the other very activated or social. I have this connector piece to myself, which I use for my collaborative work, which could be actually making art pieces, helping people make shows or trying to think of social justice projects. I’m always connecting people with one idea to other people with similar ideas, and then kind of, pushing them together. I’m hoping one day I can refine, focus, and produce more, but it takes a lot just to live. I do my best. It’s been a long and hard path to get here.
F-D: Do you work with narratives, plots, or any progressing ideas in your work?
KD: As far as specific narratives, the collaborative work does incorporate that. My personal work does less so.
F-D: Does personal history make its way into your work?
F-D: What influences outside of the visual arts inspire or impact your approach to making work?
KD: I feel like I’ve lived a different life at least every ten years. Those cycles, and the experiences within them, have effected the way I approach my work. Then there’s my family. When I was younger I wanted to reject them, maybe because I wasn’t ready to understand them or connect with them. The more I’ve been involved with my grandmother, as well as with the rest of my family, I've come to find that they are simply social justice-minded people. They have themselves dipped in every part of the community, so that has totally changed me for the better.
F-D: What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process and how do you make it work for you?
KD: It changes everything. Even the amount of space. I’m such a private person, so now that I have this big room, it’s a totally different kind of experience. It provides me the choice of choosing what level of privacy I need that day. People are respectful here and I can come here as late as I want. Most of the time I work in the middle of the night and, yes, I’ll be totally freaked out by random sounds, but I love it. I really do.
F-D: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture, and which other artists might your work be in conversation with?
KD: Yes, I think my collaborative work is in conversation with specific graphic novelists, one in particular being Rich McGuire. I have his book, Here, and its influenced the narrative structure of the book we’re making. I’d also say do-it-yourself publishers, obviously. We went to the New York Art Book Fair with the Hadley Prize money to learn about how to publish books and we got to see a lot of people who are inspiring to us. The Graphic Novel is a genre I’m very interested in, just like I’m interested in different kinds of painting techniques.
F-D: Do you have a motto or creed?
KD: Do not let 'not making' paralyze you; just make something everyday. That would be something that I live by now because I spent years not making anything.
F-D: When asked, what do you tell people you do for a living?
KD: I say a lot of stuff: artist, mediator, teacher, collaborator, arts director, social worker, family member, friend. I don’t know, anything I can think of, because there are so many things. Being an artist, you can’t just say you’re an artist. That’s how I feel about it.
F-D: What risks have you taken in, or for, your work?
KD: I’ve taken some major risks. When it comes to helping others with their art practice, I’ve helped put up a 20 foot by 60 foot snowflake on a billboard. I’ve even obtained things illegally for reference material. I think at this point in my life, I have shed all of that risk and found that I can do a lot more within the bounds of myself. Risk can be very detrimental to yourself and can actually make things harder, so I’m just jumping the hurdles as they come. I just do things and if I can’t do something, then fine, but I’ve found that when I actually take that risk, I am usually successful.
F-D: Words of wisdom?
KD: Have a committee of peers who you trust to review your work and give you guidance. It doesn’t need to necessarily be a formal thing, but just a few select people. I also recommend finding a mentor. Don’t get bogged down by the content or the media. If there’s someone you respect in this world, go learn from them.
F-D: Is there something that you’re currently working on or excited about starting that you can tell us about?
KD: When our collaboration is published, there will be events, but I don’t see that happening for a few more years. I love putting on shows for other people, though. There will be two exhibitions and four workshops in The Portland Museum that will be happening over the next year. I’ll also have a couple of musicians to perform as well, so things will be happening there.