Artist & photographer, Kate Raudenbush's
work has been a fixture on the deep playa canvas of Burning Man
for some years now, and I have personally experienced a few of her pieces out there, always feeling her work speaks on multiple levels, forms and themes... many of which have resonated with me at a sub-conscious level.
But what is doubly interesting, is hearing her articulate the intention & consciousness which informs & drives her work. And beautifully so. This has now confirmed my more intuitive, and experiential reading of her work.
What really struck me, is her emphasis on 'intent'
. This is of paramount importance. When an artist creates a work, they are not only materializing an idea or a concept, but imparting a mode of consciousness with that materialization. This is something more artists should be more conscious of. (literally!) In this way, art is the metamorphosis of the spiritual to the material.
"Art is the transmission of states of Being." - Alex Grey
The following is a recent interview from Reality Sandwich
What is your personal mantra?
Create with intention. Remain open. Breathe.
What does the role of the Artist mean to you?
Artists are the conscience of our age reflected in physical form. The act of creation is enormously powerful; it is the ability to bring into being something that existed only in the mind, in potential energy, in the space between the atoms. What is created is the artists' conscious thought manifested in physical form. This brings with it enormous responsibility.
Artists are the mirrors of our society. In a way they are also portals to the future. This sounds absurd at first. However, imagine our current civilization being unearthed in the future: it would be the art that would give archeologists the clues about what we revered, what we valued and what reflected our identity.
Unfortunately, now is a time when the "art market" is being perverted by commercialism. What is seen as remarkable is the ridiculous amounts of cash being spent on works of art and the vapid consuming spectacle around it – not the art itself. The archeologists of the future would say that this civilization puts money on a pedestal more than art – that culture is merely an object that can be bought. Thankfully this is a delusional virus, akin to the one the townspeople had in the fairytale The Emperors New Clothes and one that will eventually be shattered by reality – making room for art that has integrity and truth.
Meanwhile, the artists that are not part of the circus are producing amazing work for those of us with enough awareness to understand that art is not valued for its auction price. Its real value is discovered in the immediacy, by the experience and insight art creates. These visceral artists are the antidotes to what ails this society. They create art that feels alive because they are not merely creating an object – they are creating a living experience. They are creating a reflection of us. Witness the work created at Burning Man. Imagine unearthing that in the future!
What is the driving force behind your creativity?
To communicate as best I can humanity's place in our world and to reflect us with all our potential back to ourselves. I am driven by the desire to create an interactive gathering space for community to connect with each other and together be inspired by their collective and individual experience. I seek to distill an idea down to its essential form, its essential truth, its essential metaphor, and to build unity from opposites in the most harmonious and elegant way possible. My intention is to create a sculpture that you can feel, that possesses it's own energy, that is transporting.
What transformative experiences have influenced your life and how has that manifested in your work?
When I was a kid, I grew up moving every two to three years to a new place overseas, and then back to the States. Change was constant and I loved it from the start: the sense of discovery, the newness, the culture. The opportunity to start over and reinvent yourself was ingrained. At the same time, my mom was an actress in the theater and I loved watching her perform, completely at home in this imaginary world come to life on stage.
When I was nine, the costume and set designer Desmond Heely invited me backstage at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Canada, and showed me how this whole world was created. He was very intense and took the whole thing very seriously; he put me to work immediately. I loved it. He and the crew were building the set onstage for Arms and the Man and he told me that there was a pivotal moment in the play when a soldier arrives at the front door and I was to be the person to paint the doorbell. I was, of course, beside myself. I think I spent an hour painting the doorbell with a tiny brush. During the first invited dress performance, I was in the audience. The "moment" came and the doorbell rang and in my proudest little voice I yelled out "I painted that!" to the whole theatre. Little did I know that it was a portal that would lead to a life-long pursuit of creating imaginary worlds.
Nine years ago, I first set foot on the playa at Burning Man and discovered the greatest stage on the face of earth and I have been making my pilgrimage to the desert every year since. If that's not a portal to imaginary worlds, I don't know what is.
How long does it take you on average to complete a piece of work, and do you ever do several pieces simultaneously?
It really depends on the scope of the project. The Gear Chandeliers took about two months and I made them at the same time I built Duel Nature. From conception to reality, creating one of my Burning Man sculptures takes about nine months. It feels like you are creating a child. I simultaneously do photography work. I sell my prints and I work on smaller long-term projects like building prototypes of my experimental furniture. I always have to be creating something. That is when I feel most alive.
Why should people check out your work?
My sculptures are made with intention yet open enough to be a set piece for your own experience. In my photographic work there is often a playful seriousness or formal dignity even in the most saturated image. I put enormous energy into imagining how people can connect through my creations.
When I conceived Guardian of Eden (the lotus flower) I thought about the different ways people would gather inside and underneath the sculpture and what allegorical experience it would create by our interaction with it. In Hindu creation myth, when a lotus flower opens it reveals the seat of the Creator, Brahman, who sets into motion the birth of the next cycle of existence. I wanted to build a sculpture that would give us the opportunity to sit in that place of creation and contemplate the nature of our current world and imagine, if we were the Creator God, what kind of world would we invent if we had that kind of creative power. I wanted to create a surreal gathering space for perfect strangers to meet and cross-pollinate their energy and ideas inside a symbol for enlightenment. Simultaneously, underneath the sculpture at night, was another world, a star-shaped pool of lagoon-blue light. At its center was a white projection of the Flower of Life, an ancient sacred geometric symbol that represented the interconnectedness of all life. I envisioned it appearing as if the lotus flower were projecting a secret or the very essence of its soul onto the desert floor. I imagined people meditating, drumming and singing underneath it. I discovered that that was exactly what people did when they encountered it and they would sit for hours up above the playa, reclining languorously in the air in the curve of the giant lotus petals lit by the amber glow of the mirrored seed-pod. People even chose to get married beneath the lotus flower. It was the most intense and overwhelming feeling to create art with a specific intention and then discover that people intuitively resonated with it on that same frequency.
How does your work affect consciousness, and what are your views on the evolution of consciousness?
Essentially, I create to communicate an idea. Distilling it into a few rough themes, I have attempted to communicate ideas that reflect humanity and our interconnected relation to creation (Guardian of Eden), our own destructive nature (Duel Nature), our perceptions of ourselves (Stadium of the Self), our conception of linear time (Gear Chandelier) and our illusion of subjective observation (Observer/Observed). I can't speak for others, but if they are open to the intention of my work, then I feel there is definitely a real form of unspoken communication happening in each of the environments that I have created. It is a great honor to be understood and to have the opportunity create an environment that opens another window from which to view the world and to see ourselves.
I think the world is heading toward greater consciousness, although when you read the newspapers it's hard to believe. There is an increasing amount of fanaticism because of clashing ideologies, nationalism and our struggle for domination of natural resources for an overpopulated and over-consuming world. I feel that we are experiencing the push and pull of simultaneously connecting and disconnecting. And in many ways this chaos is because of the loss of our natural habitat and therefore our humanity. Perhaps part of this expanding consciousness is born out of this crisis. There is nothing that will awaken you more to the fragility and the interconnectedness of life than to realize it's all disappearing. It's like a big game of musical chairs and there are fewer and fewer seats because we are paving and mining and chopping down all the wood in our living room. We are resourceful living beings, but there is no technological substitute for a tree. Nor is there a replacement for visceral human connection, or a proxy for real experience; we are losing our connection to the earth and therefore to each other. This is the greatest challenge of our time. Our evolution and our hopes lie in the fact that many people are realizing this: more and more are growing conscious of this interconnectivity. But let's get real. Unless we act with this evolved consciousness and apply it globally in our daily lives – unless this consciousness gets catalyzed – our evolution will remain in the imagination. It's up to us to create our own reality.