kim bissett artist

In 2005 a profound change occurred in my work when I stopped making sculpture and began making drawings. Nerve damage had made it impossible for me to continue my work in bronze and cast stone. As an artist I was determined to continue to work and communicate. The transition from 3-D to 2-D space meant learning a new language- how to compress space, set perimeters, understand figure/ground relationships, manipulate illusory space, and communicate weight and gravity. Yet my drawings are constructed in a way that relates to my earlier work in sculpture- I layer, laminate, sand, tear, cut, reconfigure, and assemble the paper. The paper allows me an immediacy, however, that eluded me in sculpture.

The ideas of composer/musician Ornette Coleman have been important to me in this transition. Coleman talks about sound as language. His free jazz has a syntax that evolves from inside the work rather than being imposed from without. Without the web of preordained structure Coleman believes sound has the capacity to communicate directly. "You can play the alto saxophone in a way where people can't hear nothing you're doing, but they feel everything you're playing." (Ornette Coleman: Decades of Jazz on the Edge, Ashley Kahn, NPR Music).

Coleman's ideas go to the core of my work: I am not interested in rendering, but in liberating feeling from description and getting it down in color, shape, line, texture, and material.

Notes on Paper Constructs

Yellow Feather at Crater Lake and Black Sky, Orange Mesa relate to Native American spirituality and the regard of select landmarks as spiritual sites. Scale shifts and changes of perspective are used to suggest fluidity between different levels of consciousness and dimension.

Middle Passage- The Crossing is one of three drawings which grew from conversations with African American friends who shared with me stories of their heritage. Layers of blacks, blues, whites, purples, and pinks are used in The Crossing. The action begins in a boldly turbulent sequence at the lower right. The spatial breakup becomes more intricate, delicate and complex, eventually stretching into silence. This movement is built with the aggressive physicality of layered, torn and sanded papers to quietly placed velvet and gloss blacks. I induced a sense of the tossing sea and a fear filled relentless voyage by juxtaposing rhythms of wave patterns, navigational patterns, and the night sky. Towards the center two figures seem to break apart and move in opposite directions. One of the figures is white gesso sanded through to black, white being the symbol of ancestral spirits in many African cultures.

Dream of the Motherland was inspired by a talented life model whom I have worked with for many years. During a drawing session this woman spontaneously posed with her arms gently wrapped around a tall bundle of willow branches. Her pose and expression were of a young African American woman pausing in her work, daydreaming of the lush green of Africa.

Barking at Clouds explores delicacy and transparency- a shift of cold red into a warm grey. The drawing has a free form section of thickly layered paper that thins down to the translucency and texture of snake skin. This snake skin 'tail' moves into a foggy rectangular piece of extremely fragile paper, increasingly marked and tattered with each showing. It is about the changing sky, the wind, and the ephemeral character of existence. It is Ollie's piece, a beloved dog who appears in the clouds at which he used to bark.

– Kim Bissett