Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Kathryn Knudsen Weaves Everything at Hand into Pure Visual Delight

Kathryn Knudsen, “Candy,” 2019, T- shirt scraps, felt scraps, embroidery floss, place mat.

Unexpected forms, colors, and textures fill the dream-like landscapes of Kathryn Knudsen’s works. These — largely — fiber works often utilize common everyday items such as t-shirts, matchless socks, bra straps, and/or pillowcases to achieve each of their unique designs.Some of the works are contained in a uniform square while others stretch and curve outside of any recognizable shape. Currently on display at Salt Lake Community College (in the Edna Runswick Taylor Foyer), these works are unique and refreshing to see.

“Candy” is made of embroidery floss, a placemat and t-shirt and felt scraps the work is largely contained in a square, so the unique abstract design resembles a traditional pictorial work. At the center bottom of the work is a long, thin rectangle made of a fuzzy green material. This rectangle is outlined by a sky blue fabric and is surrounded by many layers of small, thin triangles that have been sewn onto the fabric with the point of the triangle facing away from the green rectangle. These mustard yellow triangles reach all the way to the bottom and side edges of the work and almost look like fur. Sitting on top of this yellow fur is a green form, which stretches across the work bubbling at the center, creating a round protrusion. The top of this protrusion has pink strips of fabric sprouting out of it, giving it a faint look of a sea anemone. The background of the work is filled with a light blue fabric that has been stitched with embroidery floss adding texture and swirls of thread across the background of the work.

Kathryn Knudsen, “Fiona,” 2022, Old scarf, old socks, sweatpants, fabric scraps, thread, embroidery floss.

While the overall shape of a work like “Candy” is uniform and square, the same cannot be said for ones like “Fiona,” which creates its own form rather than being contained by one. The left/bottom side of the work has an overall “L” shape but the top, right side of the work juts out in three layers of petal-shaped curves. The bottom features the same furry thin triangles in “Candy,” but in this case, they are green and feel more reminiscent of grass. This grass takes on a wide “U” shape with a thicker right side that has two little circles of blue fabric embedded in the unruly grass. Sitting in the curve of the “U” is a bright pinkish knit fabric, while above this is a large, soft-looking gray fabric that makes up the left edge of the “L” shape and stretches to the other side of the work creating cloud-like bumps across the center and right edge. The center of this gray fabric is interrupted by various shades of blue and white embroidery floss that has been stitched into the fabric. Above this more embroidery floss is used to create a small dense cloud shape full of earthy tones. The top of the work features an upside “U” of pink fuzzy fabric that touches the left edge and right top corner of the earthy cloud. Inside the curve of the upside “U” is a fuzzy bright blue fabric. On top of all of this are the pink fabric flower petals that grow, sprouting out of “Fiona’s” head.

Each of Knudsen’s works holds unique surprises from shape to texture to materials used. While she largely uses fiber materials, some of her works also utilize oil and acrylic paint or beads. “Chew” features oil and acrylic paint as well as glass beads, paper scraps, and felt scraps. The background of “Chew” is a rectangle with curved corners, painted a very light pink color. At its center is a little fuzzy creature where felt triangles of a muted moss green color create the body and head, which is an overall upside “U” shape but with little bumps and shallow dips along the edges. The bottom of the upside “U” is met with nine, small, purplish colored right-side-up “U’s” that look like little legs this creature might scuttle around on. At the bottom center of “Chew,” the moss green felt gives way to a bright lime green color and above this is the blue face of the creature. This window of blue among the green felt features a cloud-shaped blue that is texturized with blue embroidery floss and beautiful blue glass beads that are evenly spread across the cloud.

Kathryn Knudsen, “Chew,” 2021, Paper scraps, felt scraps, markers, pen, glass beads, oil paint, acrylic paint.

These works reject reality and offer the viewer a moment of escapism to another more mystical realm of pure creativity. The eccentric shapes and colors allow the viewer a peek into this creative realm as the mind strives to find patterns or recognizable shapes in the works. Doing this often leads the mind to image these works as ethereal landscapes or little otherworldly creatures. With their bright colors, morphing shapes, and wide range of textures, Knudsen’s work are refreshing and exciting.

Kathryn Knudsen, South City Campus, Center for Arts & Media, (Edna Runswick Taylor Foyer, East Entrance
1575 S State Street) Salt Lake City, through March 11.

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