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LIGHT + METAL: Sealed in Memory, A Conversation with Kate Breakey


photo-eye Gallery LIGHT + METAL:
Sealed in Memory,
A Conversation with Kate Breakey
photo-eye Gallery's current exhibition LIGHT + METAL features two recent works from represented artist Kate Breakey. Breakey is known for working with her hands often imbuing her images with unique expressive gestures such as hand-painted surfaces and gold leafed glass plates.

Kate Breakey's work installed at photo-eye Gallery (back wall far left and right).
photo-eye Gallery's current exhibition LIGHT + METAL features two recent works from represented artist Kate Breakey. Breakey is known for working with her hands, often imbuing her images with unique expressive gestures such as hand-painted surfaces and gold leafed glass plates. The hand-painted and encaustic-wax-coated Rose and Chrysanthemum prints in LIGHT and METAL exemplify Breakey's signature approach to creating unique works. Both flower portraits are tightly framed by a rich black backdrop, their lightly painted petals enhance the image's graceful form and soften its features. Coated in encaustic wax, Rose and Chrysanthemum seem sealed in wistful recollection, further removing the portrait's sharp edges and providing a glowing gossamer surface. Their patinas recall both the irregular edges of a 19th-century wet plate and the tarnished shadows of an early-20th-century silver print. As Gallery Associate Yoana Medrano noted her Gallery Favorites selection, these prints are simple but powerfully evocative, able to spur strong personal memories.

Speaking with Kate earlier this month, she was kind enough to share a statement about her work and her philosophy as a photographer while answering a few of our questions about the prints on view in LIGHT + METAL.

Kate Breakey, Rose, Hand-Colored/Encaustic, 25x27" Image, Unique, $2000, Price Includes Frame

Kate Breakey on building a Taxonomy of Memory

Childhood visits to the natural history museum were what first piqued my curiosity about the biological world. Standing fascinated in front of the dioramas and amazed by the glass cases filled with shells and birds—all labeled and classified—I marveled over the beauty and mystery of the seemingly endless diversity of life.  I understood precisely the need to preserve and display everything, forever. As I wandered among the specimens, it seemed to me that all these things radiated a sort of silent message, the essence of which was indecipherable and incomprehensible—a secret to be contemplated for a lifetime. The wonder, the intrigue, and a desire to have my own collections to look at never left me. This became the focus of my life as an artist and photographer—collecting and examining, classifying and displaying—an attempt perhaps at recreating that particular sensation, of longing to have an intimacy with beauty and nature.  Running my fingers and eyes over the surfaces—petals, feathers bone, fur, flesh—I am at once enthralled by the exquisite detail and overwhelmed by the pure immensity and the utter complexity of biology, and all that is still unknown and unknowable—that secret.

Memory is transient; time and distance cloud our remembering. Photographs, however, record and preserve the light in a moment, so while my personal collections and recollections are not well preserved, they can be saved for a while longer on paper, under glass or wax.  For now, these images are evidence of some things I saw, loved, wondered about, and sometimes kept for a while so I could know them better and in so doing, know myself.  These pictures are a kind of taxonomy, their subjects, my memories, now inseparable.

Kate Breakey, Chrysanthemum, Hand-Colored/Encaustic, 26x28" Image, Inquire for Details and Price.


photo-eye:     Why did you choose the specific process and materials you used to make the works included in LIGHT + METAL?

Kate Breakey:     I occasionally use encaustic (wax) because I love what it does to the image—puts a surface layer over the image that makes it milky. It's like looking through an old etched pane of glass. It obscures the detail and it makes it somehow more mysterious.  The process has the same feel as pressing leaves or flowers, as keepsakes; there is a kind of nostalgia and preservation of memory. I'm making my own personal museum.

pe:     Why are you making unique works, and is the fact they are unique important to you?

KB:     Everything I do is unique. I hand color with oil and pencil,  I use gold leaf and occasionally use encaustic. Photographic images, especially now in the digital world, are infinitely reproducible. There is not much "hands-on" like in a traditional darkroom. No magic chemistry, so it's almost too easy.  Now more than ever I want to do handwork, make marks on photographs to make them more gestural and personal. I can't help myself, I have to make one of a kind things because I am one of a kind.

pe:     Who are your influences?

KB:     Too numerous to mention, but many painters as photographers. A lot of the pictorial photographers, a lot of the expressionist and impressionist painters as well.


Kate Breakey in her studio.
Kate Breakey is a represented artist at photo-eye Gallery. She received the Photographer of the Year prize from the Houston Center for Photography in 2004 and has exhibited in more than 60 solo exhibitions across four continents. Breakey’s images can be found in the collections of the Australian National Gallery, The Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and the Austin Museum of Art among others. Her photographic monographs include Small Deaths, Painted LightFlowers/Birds, Los Sombras (The Shadows) and Slowlight. A native Australian, Breakey lives and works in Tucson, Arizona.




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LIGHT + METAL has been extended at photo-eye Gallery 
through Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. 

For additional information on Kate Breakey's work, 
and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 
505-988-5152 x202 or gallery@photoeye.com.




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