Memory and metaphor

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Artist Katy Korkos will put on a one-woman show at the Fuller Lodge Art Center

By Nancy Coombs

More than 50 pieces of fiber art by one artist, Katy Korkos, will grace the walls of the Fuller Lodge Art Center for one week, Nov. 15-20.
“I’m not sure that it’s because I’m such a prolific artist; maybe it’s because I’ve been making things for about 40 years and I start a lot of new projects,” Korkos said.
The work is mostly representational rather than abstract and mostly inspired by natural forms — birds, leaves and trees. She says that almost everything else is inspired by words and thoughts about life.
“I started out as a strictly utilitarian quilter,” Korkos said. “The work of quilting is very contemplative. When your hands are busy, your mind is free to wander and think and philosophize, so one quilt leads to another.”
She has made at least 300 pieces since she started in 1973, the same year she graduated from college and the same year she started working in restaurants. She said that she starts as many as 30 pieces some years and usually finishes at least 10 or 12.
“Unfinished work doesn’t bother me – but I don’t finish a piece
unless I’m really in love with it. If something just doesn’t engage me after a couple of years, I’ll just give it away or tear it up or repurpose it somehow, but also try to figure out where I went wrong,” she said.
She likes to work in series, exploring subject matter in depth. For many years she made patchwork quilts, often giving them a contemporary twist or spin, with hand-dyed fabrics or unusual colors. The quilting was the basis for a set of portraits showing women reading. Eventually she created nine pieces in that series and went on to do one portrait of a man reading — a portrait of her father. Many of those pieces have sold, but a few will be in the Fuller Lodge show.
Also in the one-week show at Fuller Lodge, there will be a few pieces from a series she calls “Memory and Metaphor,” which is about exploring memory.
“I like to create things in layers and that’s also my concept about how my memory works. If I can dig down through the layers to a set of things that all belong together, I can recall whole stories from a long time ago,” she said. “And I use metaphors to remind me of visual images, and vice versa. I love metaphors like ‘jumping through hoops,’ or ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.’ ”
Korkos’ latest series is called “A Personal Ornithology.” She had a show at Mesa Public Library in 2009 by that title, showing about 40 pieces that fit that theme. There will be several new works in this year’s show, including a new theme she is exploring called “Protective Coloration.” All of the work in the show will be for sale, with prices ranging from $125-$2,500.
Her informal education in art comes from growing up in a family who made all kinds of things, from utilitarian to decorative. Her formal education in art was through UNM-Los Alamos, Northern New Mexico College, several classes in design, drawing and watercolor with prominent artists and attendance at the Alegre Art Quilt Retreat, where she was able to take classes with notable art quilters such as Therese May, Fran Skiles and Wendy Huhn.
Korkos has a busy life outside of her artwork. She is the member services coordinator of the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, along with serving as the campaign chair for the 2011 fundraising campaign for the United Way of Northern New Mexico. She also is on the board of the Los Alamos Concert Association.
Her studio appears chaotic as she prepares for her one-woman show.
Last minute preparations included sewing “sleeves” to the back of the fabric pieces, cutting lath wood pieces to be inserted through those sleeves, writing labels and addressing invitations.
Korkos is not one to let a little chaos overwhelm her.
“Having spent more than 30 years in the restaurant business, I’ve learned to be flexible,” she said.
There will be a public reception for the show from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Art Center, and there will be also conversation with the artist and several of her creative friends at 11 a.m. Nov.20. For more information about Korkos, visit her Web site at www.katykorkos.com.
For more information about Fuller Lodge Art Center, visit http://fullerlodgeartcenter.com or call 662-1635. The Fuller Lodge Art center is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.