Artist Highlight: Kit Porter
Kit Porter received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of the South in 2005. In addition to creating her own art, she has held positions in various sectors of the fine art world locally and internationally. She has had a lifelong relationship to the coastal environment, combing beaches around the world during her travels, paying particular attention to the beaches she has lived near in Southeastern North Carolina, the Lowcountry of South Carolina, the Northeast of Scotland, and in Houston, Texas where she currently resides.
Through a personally developed abstract language, this body of work explores beauty and destruction of the coastal environment as experienced from a distance, and up close. Utilizing the aerial perspective for composition and memory, abstract landscape paintings of the coastal environment portray distance and disconnection from the environment. Materials found within the coastal environment including aluminum, cloth, rope, wood and of course plastic, are assembled to explore the up close experience of a coastal environment littered with marine debris. By removing oneself from the coastal environment, by seeing it from above, what is the experience? By immersing oneself in the coastal environment, what is the experience? These paintings whether up close and personal, or distant and removed, reflect the artist's emotional response to the beauty and simultaneous destruction of the coastal landscape.
Tell us a little about your background as an artist.
I have always been an artist. I was the kid on the side of the street braving the summer sun with an arts stand selling hairclips made from aluminum poptops off of old cans of Tab. It was a tough sell on a hot day in southeastern North Carolina, when a glass of lemonade would really be a quencher, but I believed my work was worth it, and so did my mom. Mom has always been a huge supporter of my artistic interest. My arts teachers from elementary through high school were hugely instrumental in my decision to pursue art seriously. Heading into university, there was no area other than fine art even on my radar. I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of the South in 2005. I went on to work in a variety of sectors of the arts world locally and abroad, and somehow painting became something I did on the side. Working in the intricately webbed world of artists, galleries, museums, curators and collectors, I lacked the confidence that my work had a place there too. I don’t remember a lightbulb specifically going off, but I do remember deciding to put my art first. I could no longer let it hide in the wings. I am an artist.
Where are you based now and how would you describe what you do?
I currently live and work in Houston, Texas, United States. I am a full time artist (and a full time mother), painting out of a lovely studio at the back of our garage. I create abstract paintings exploring both the blessing that the environment is in our world and the way we choose to treat it.
Would you describe yourself as an environmental artist? What is the relationship between your work and nature?
Yes. My work explores destruction and beauty in the coastal environment. I have lived by the coast for most of my life. It brings me peace, tranquility and inspiration. Past work has focused on the landscape from an aerial perspective, a stunning way to look at our coast. I love this perspective, but it is quite different from the experience of being on the sand, by the water, in the environment. Up close, there are many things that are not so apparent from this elevated vantage point. The destruction of the marine ecosystem is a huge environmental issue about which I feel strongly. My current work is focusing on issue of marine debris. The act of collecting, cleaning, removing marine debris from the coast is a small way in which I can do my part, but I am only one person. I hope that through my work I can bring awareness in an unexpected way.
Describe the technical process you use to create your work.
My process begins with removing environmentally destructive debris from the coast. In the studio, the fragments are composed in visually appealing arrangements. Each composition is affixed to a highly textured surfaces, and finishing touches are added to complete each sculptural mixed media work. My process continues through the creation of large scale renderings of the smaller works. By shifting the focus from the materials to the simplified shapes, colors and arrangements, each large work becomes further removed from it’s origin. Through removal, composition and re-presentation of destruction, I seek beauty.
Would you say that your art is purpose-driven? If so, what do you aim to accomplish through your creative expression? What do you hope you art communicates to those who come into contact with it?
Yes. My work is purpose-driven. While I know this work is insignificant in the greater problem that is plastic pollution and marine debris, I am only one person. I hope that my work communicates to those who come into contact with it, that any human can make the world a more beautiful place. Just as an artist can bring beauty into the world by creating something new, one person can pick up a piece of trash to make the world a little cleaner and a little more beautiful.
Which environmental issues and causes are you most passionate about?
So many, but currently my heart is breaking over marine debris and plastic pollution. I recently read an article from National Geographic called “We made plastic. We depend on it. Now we’re drowning in it.” (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/) In this article it is estimated that between 5.3 million and 14 million tons of unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the ocean…EACH YEAR. I cannot understand how this can be true, especially when it is a problem with a solution. The article quotes Ted Siegler, a Vermont resource economist, “We know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle.” I am not saying that I do not use any plastic, of course I do. But I am teaching my children the importance of doing our part. After all, it is the state of their future Earth which motivates me.