Artist Kate Raudenbush gets reflective
Artist Kate Raudenbush likes to pose questions with her art. Her large-scale sculptures invite the public to interact with them, possibly coming up with answers, interpretations, and asking questions of their own in response.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Raudenbush started out in art school studying fashion design.
“I love sculpture on the body and the theatricality of all of it,” says Raudenbush, who quickly became disillusioned with the industry and turned to photography. She worked as a professional photographer for the next 12 years. When she started going to Burning Man 11 years ago, she went as a photographer.
“At Burning Man, every person has a different response to what’s going on,” she says. “I tried to capture it on film and realized that I was being an observer rather than a part of it. I said to myself, ‘I’m just going to dare myself to make a sculpture.’”
In 2004, Raudenbush received a grant from Burning Man. She had no experience whatsoever but created a sculpture titled “Observer/Observed.”
“I loved being able to not document an experience but to create an experience,” Raudenbush says. That is where it all started.
For Burning Man in 2006, Raudenbush created a sculpture titled “Duel Nature.” The theme for the 2006 event was Hope and Fear: The Future.
“I treat every theme as a question, and every question is answered with an environment,” says Raudenbush. “My response to both hope and fear was the same thing—the human race. How do you create a sculpture about the dichotomy of human nature? What’s the one thing that bonds us all together?”
Raudenbush went to the macro level and thought of how humans are all linked by DNA—essentially all being made up of different arrangements of the same nucleotides. Using that as her inspiration, she created a spiral, not only to represent the structure of DNA but also to create a unifying sculpture. The sculpture, now installed on Sierra Street behind the Riverside Artist Lofts, consists of a large metal ring with panels that spiral out around it in a helix shape. The panels are lined with red mirror on the interior of the circle and rougher, more violent, raw-cut steel is exposed on the exterior. People are invited to enter the circle where they see not only their reflection but also the reflection of everyone else who is inside the sculpture with them.
“The more people there are, the more complex it becomes,” Raudenbush says. “It’s about what unites us rather than divides us.”
The title itself, “Duel Nature,” is a play on words. Raudenbush wanted to highlight the struggle of what it is to be human. We aren’t either good or bad, but potentially both. And she believes that we have a choice.
It’s not the first Raudenbush sculpture in Reno. “Guardian of Eden,” also formerly at Burning Man, is on view outside the Nevada Museum of Art.
Creating public art is a way for Raudenbush to give people the opportunity to have an experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Her art creates the situations for people to interact with the world differently. She often hears stories of the experiences people have in relationship to her work.
“You can get married in it or watch a lunar eclipse in the petals of a lotus flower,” says Raudenbush. She sees her art as a way to comment on society in a really public way that gives it more meaning with every participant’s interaction.