Baltimore, United States

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, raised in Starkville, MS and Largo, FL, teaching artist Katie Helms is trained as an art teacher and...

Reno Arts Development Laboratories (RADLabs) is born of my love for experimentation and play. I make books because I love them. Inspired by processes I learned from Laura Wait at Penland Craft School, my recent work involves making large watercolor and sumi ink paintings filled with words, prayers and symbols. These paintings are cut up and used to create artists’ books or framed paintings. Sometimes fragments of these paintings are photographed or scanned at high resolution and printed enlarged on canvas or paper for further layering of rice paper, gesso, gouache, and graphite.

Regardless of content or palette, my work focuses on text as visual image so the the words are often illegible or cropped to invite the viewer to be present to what comes up for them in the presence of the image rather than focusing on deciphering what it says. The rhythm and repetition of letter forms offers a structure from which to hang any meaning a viewer brings with them to the piece on the wall or shelf.

Editing and cropping is an important part of my art making process and I highly value the freedom that exists in knowing that whatever happens on the paper as I experiment with materials, I can cut it away if it doesn’t work well. The sheer volume of paintings required to create a finished artists’ book invites me to be playful with my approach to making work so that I can have myriad pages to choose from. I rely heavily on the influences of my young students to remind me to remain unattached to the outcome of my explorations of ink and paint on paper.

I am committed to showing up to the page and pouring myself onto it by writing and painting out the words that stick with me or create movement or offer peace and comfort to me as I navigate life. Each painting I make is a love letter to the world, to nature, to what is whole and hurting and beautiful in each breath.

All images available here are either products of collaborative work between me, my students, and my friends or are details of images from my artists’ books and text-based paintings.

  • Joined: March 2016
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