“My work is about what it’s like to traverse a changing city,” artist Katie Miller says. “In Seattle, there’s so much construction going on. We can see through the buildings, see the frames…it’s all grids and angles. We walk through—and look through—this ephemeral environment.”
And what could be more ephemeral than paper, the medium she uses most often to explore that immateriality? Miller hand-cuts parchment with a straight edge and a No. 11 X-Acto blade, layering the cut paper to form complex grids of dark and light, shadow and movement. “Light is a big part of my work. I use light, hold light, capture light. Light has its own presence. Paper softens light,” says the artist. “I want to physically make the piece. I find the repetition of cutting has a meditative aspect. It’s demanding but blissful at the same time.”
Miller’s work ranges from large-scale installations that a viewer can actually walk through (such as those she made for her 2018 show “Presence of Absence” at MadArt Studio) to smaller pieces, like those she made for her exhibit this August, aptly named “Shifting Perspectives” at architecture firm Hoedemaker Pfeiffer’s gallery space. While one of those is hung in a 10-foot-tall doorway without a wall behind it, the rest are set an inch and a half away from the wall in order to “create light and shadow from both natural and applied light,” explains Miller. “The works shift and change as you move through the space because of the position of the shadows and light projections on the wall.”
Although Miller’s primary medium is paper, it stands to reason that, given Seattle is a mecca for glass art and she holds an MFA from Tyler School of Art in glass, the artist uses cast glass in her practice. “Like the cut-paper pieces, these are architecturally inspired,” she explains. “I make a cartoon of a work and then cut strips of glass and lay them out, kind of like a mosaic, but I use glass powder between them rather than grout. Then I kiln-fire it.” Several of her glass pieces appeared in a group show as part of Seattle’s massive Refract event earlier this fall.
It was another group show—this one outdoors—that led her to tackle a new medium. Paper would not be practical for an outdoor installation, so she’s working on a project using sailcloth as part of a six-month-long Art Interruptions show at Seattle Center. “The sailcloth has a different texture than paper does,” she observes. “It handles light in an interesting way. It holds light differently. It kind of glows.” These public art pieces give her another venue for interacting with her chosen city, for creating art that plays with changing light. The goal, always, is to engage viewers in reevaluating what they see. To, as Miller says, shift perspective.