Women and Water: Kat O'Connor's Empowering Style

June 2018 has been a great month for Copley Master Kat O’Connor. She was awarded a renowned Drawing and Printmaking Fellowship from the Mass Cultural Council, and two of her works, “Quiet Enough for Color to Sound” and “The Second Surrender,” are featured in the 83rd Regional Exhibition of Art & Craft at Fitchburg Art Museum. She also received Second Prize for her piece “I Feel the Need to Desire Now” in Co|So’s 2018 Summer Members Show: Anchors Aweigh. “Co|So has been wonderful,” she expressed, “it has led me to new opportunities, I’ve met collectors, and my piece was on the cover of Artscope because of Co|So.”

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Kat O’Connor, I Feel the Need to Desire Now, conte, graphite, and ink, 33 x 24”

O’Connor’s success speaks to how her works are intriguingly unique and expertly drawn. Her figurative artwork is particularly distinct in its subject matter: her paintings show women floating in water at curious angles, their faces slightly obscured or hidden. To achieve her realistic water effects, O’Connor admitted that she first works in abstract. “The [realistic] water reflections have benefited from a lot of abstraction, and [the abstract works] always tie to a realistic piece I’m working on.” However, O’Connor has no plans to share these private abstract works with the public: “It’s a personal journey at this point,” she explains. Right now, O’Connor plans to use her fellowship to travel and work on her figurative art.

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Kat O’Connor, Quiet Enough for Color to Sound, oil on panel, 43 x 32”

With her fellowship, O’Connor plans to visit New Mexico and the desert, since her artwork always benefits from travel. “Oddly enough,” she explained, “the desert is how my water pieces started.” Alone one night in Marfa, Texas, O’Connor was sitting beside the illuminated pool. With nothing but the night sky, the desert, and the swimming pool in view, O’Connor’s fascination with water began, and inspired her current artistic style.

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Kat O’Connor, From the Other Side, oil on linen board, 22 x 22” circa 2014

But before her revelatory night in Texas, O’Connor tried to find a “logical career” in pathology. Finding herself constantly drawing what she saw under the microscope, such as bones and anatomy, O’Connor found her passion for art: “I have to [create art]. It’s too critical to me as a human being,” she expressed. At the start of her art career, O’Connor primarily painted landscapes, until the market crash in 2008 halted her sales. Viewing this as a new opportunity, O’Connor wanted to create art that was not considered “commercially marketable” at the time, and so began her fresh concept of female figurative drawings.

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Kat O’Connor, Light Above, oil on linen, 28 x 22”

“With what’s happening politically and visually…drawing women is my way of putting women out there,” she said. “I want to show women as strong…women with careers, mothers, older women. We don’t value them the way we should.” With her fellowship, she hopes to create artwork that addresses how we view female culture, especially by featuring women of all body weights and types.

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Kat O’Connor, Luminous Will, oil on board, 43 x 32”

Though her figurative art began with the intention to study water on the human form, O’Connor believes that her message and the women she portrays can transform communities and society. She is driven to continue representing women as strong, passionate, and beautiful. Considering what this fellowship means as a reflection of her art, O’Connor said, “it gives you the feeling you’re going in the right direction.”

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Kat O’Connor, Epic, oil on board, 32 x 43”

 

Kat O’Connor is currently featured in our annual 2018 Summer Members Show: Anchors Aweigh. Read more about her on her artist page.