Kit Reuther is a self-taught artist with deep roots in Nashville. Known for her massive canvases layered with subtle colors and dramatic, bold marks, Kit Reuther is one of Nashville’s most highly-acclaimed artists. Her work can be found in numerous collections including the Tennessee State Museum, Music City Center and The Nashville Airport. It is with great pleasure that we introduce Kit Reuther to our StyleBlueprint readers.
Did you grow up in Nashville?
Yes, I was born here and grew up in Westmeade/Hillwood area. I attended Hillwood High School, Austin Peay State University, and ended up at O’more studying interior design in Franklin, TN. I was somewhat aimless at that time, and took the slow road with many diversions before I found my way to a full-time career in art.
At what age did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I’m not sure if I consciously wanted to be an artist, or if it just happened gradually over time, by a process of elimination! Art is a strange profession, actually. I didn’t go to art school, so I don’t really know if having the credentials makes you feel more authentic. All I know is that when people ask me what I do, I tell them I am an artist, and it still sounds weird to say that. Maybe when I am 60 I will suddenly feel like one, just by virtue of endurance.
Your art is amazing! Where do you get your inspiration?
Thank you. My inspiration can come from the strangest places, like something as mundane as the row of face powders at a cosmetics counter, or as grand as a panoramic sky with interesting cloud formations. I am currently obsessed with an indigo piece of fabric I ordered on Ebay from China. “A good blue can bring me to tears”- not my quote but a good one I borrow frequently from Elena Graves, who I think borrowed it from Donia Dickerson.
It appears that your work has moved to a more abstract realm, can you elaborate on the change?
Yes, there has been an undeniable evolution over the years. I taught myself to paint by looking at something and painting what I saw. Eventually as I found a voice with paint, I began to see things more abstractly, and that was the beginning of the change. It had nothing really to do with subject matter or style, and everything to do with how I saw and thought about things. What I learned about myself is that I tend to need challenges that keep me off balance. Once I get too comfortable and feel like I know what I am doing and what the outcome will be, I lose interest and it feels repetitive–like making widgets. Occasionally people will tell me that they miss the earlier work. I get it, but I think with a different voice now.
Every abstract painting or sculpture always begins for me with a feeling of helplessness and “what the hell am I doing?” Then I am forced to figure it out. It is not a logical process: brushes eventually give way to rags and my bare hands. Things only start to feel right after I have wrestled and painted over and wiped off the surface many times. My canvas size has gotten embarrassing large in scale, but the work still has a sense of quietness that has always been present from the very beginning.
Are you in any new prominent collections, either public or private?
The most recent public collection is the newly opened Music Center Center in downtown Nashville. They selected a painting from 2008 that had also hung at the Nashville Airport, so it has had lots of public exposure.
As for private collections, I think I will just let them remain private.
What’s influencing your work these days?
You know when you get ready to paint a room and you try out 8 different shades of white on the wall? I am fascinated by random strokes of color like that. My palette at the moment consists mainly of cool variations of dirty whites, creams, grays and dusty blacks (that sounds a lot more interesting than just saying black and white, doesn’t it)? I do love color, but sometimes strong, vivid colors bring too much “noise” to the work. At times I will enliven a painting with small quantities of bright color peeking out from behind a mass of gray or white paint. I also love a powdery pale pink on occasion. And of course a good blue.
Other influence includes the Oceanic Art wing at the Metropolitan Museum. I used to skip over those big rooms and go straight to the paintings, but now I spend most of my time looking at that beautiful work. My sculpture (in wood) is all about organic shapes and lines. I love to take a straight, angular piece of wood and turn it into a sensuous monolith or a tall curvaceous form. I am working on a series of head-like wooden pieces that David Lusk Gallery will be exhibiting at Art Miami in December.
Is there a new local artist who you have on your radar screen?
She is not new, but I recently had a nice studio visit with Jodi Hayes, whose paintings loosely reference architectural and structural elements like fencing, abandoned buildings and anonymous streetscapes. She is also doing some interesting “overpainting” in a new series of abstract oils. I especially like the way that Jodi manages to combine both opaque and translucent techniques, looking almost like gouache and watercolor instead of oil paint.
What painters do you admire?
Spanish artist Antoni Tapies is a personal favorite, along with the figure drawings of Giacometti. I am particularly interested in the work of any painter or sculptor right now who shows evidence of the artist’s hand at work, leaving visible remnants of experimentation. I had the privilege of seeing Brancusi’s studio in Paris earlier this year–I have always been a fan, but seeing such a large body of his work in the context of a replicated studio took it to a new level.
What is your current gallery status?
I am excited to tell you that Nashville will be getting a new gallery in January 2014: David Lusk Gallery in Memphis will be opening a second location here in Nashville in the Wedgewood/Houston St. neighborhood. David has represented my work in Memphis for a couple of years now, and I am thrilled to be a part of his expansion right here in my hometown. We are planning a solo show of my sculpture and painting sometime in the spring of 2014.
What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?
Don’t fall in love with your own work. I heard this from Teresa Patterson, a teacher at O’More, and it has served me well on many occasions. By not getting too attached, I can be more objective when it might be time to let something go, in hopes of a better outcome. I work with more freedom when I keep this in mind.
If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?
Underground rail. Obviously it’s a little too late for that, but I can dream.
What is on your bedside table?
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers, and a stack of partially completed crossword puzzles–a nightly ritual.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I am a weirdo when it comes to vacations. I tend to go to exhaustingly large cities when I need a break–usually New York. I think I would go nuts sitting on a beach with a book.
Is there something our readers would be surprised to know about you?
I dislike large social situations. Not a surprise to folks who know me.
What are 3 things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?
- 2 hours of solitude in the morning
- Air conditioning.
Thanks, Kit! For more information about Kit Reuther’s work, click here:
And thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs! See more of her work here: ashleyhylbert.com.