Filed under: Review | Tags: Ellen C. Caldwell, Kate Sikorski, Kavika Works Art Gallery
Artist and “drawing sculptor” Kate Sikorski had a recent solo show at Kavika Works Art Gallery in Santa Ana, CA, titled “Blackies to Seal and Everywhere in Between” in reference to the beaches where she collected her artistic inspiration.
But her project actually started long before these beach trips and surf outings. As an undergraduate student and surfer preparing to study abroad in South Africa, Sikorski took inspiration from a “Geography of Surfing” class in combination with her global studies major when she learned about female Muslim surfers in Madagascar. As she began to explore and think about surf attire options for Muslim women who are interested in surfing in the colder waters of California, the seedlings for her “Burkini Surf Project” formed. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Kate Sikorski | Surf Trip with Two Lights, Protected by the Same, 2012, Board shorts and other mixed media on recycled pier panels, 56” x 89.” Courtesy of Kate Sikorski.
Kate Sikorski | Surf Trip with Two Lights, Protected by the Same – DETAIL. Courtesy of Kate Sikorski.
After starting a free surf camp during her time studying in South Africa, Sikorski brought the idea home with her and began teaching free or publicly-funded surf classes to teach local Southern California Muslim women how to surf. During this time, she also collected an array of images and sketches on which to base her mixed media art pieces and subsequent solo show.
Her drawing sculptures are made of a combination of paper and other more sculptural items such as worn wood, paint, fabric, paper, and yarn. Aesthetically, they are really intricate, pleasing, and unusual. They come together well compositionally as a whole, and as one approaches closer, much of Sikorski’s finest work lies in the details, as seen in three-dimensional crosshatchings made of yarn and pins, or in fabric that is shaped, cut, and molded to “fit” her drawn subject with affixed cloth.
Kate Sikorski | Early Afternoon at Canal Street, Newport, 2012, Mixed media on recycled pier panels, 49” x 60.” Courtesy of Kate Sikorski.
Kate Sikorski | Early Afternoon at Canal Street, Newport, – DETAIL 2. Courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.
Sikorski’s subjects wear a specially made waterproof hijab to cover their heads while surfing. In the current climate, even the very subject of the burka or hijab can sometimes make a work seem more political than an artist intends – depending on the eyes of the viewer. Because of this, her work can be interpreted as potentially problematic to some, politically charged by others, and religiously insensitive to others still; although it can be equally viewed in an inverse and positive light as well.
Kate Sikorski | Ms. Wareh Post Surf Sesh at Secrets, 2012, Mixed media on found wood, 60” x 48.” Courtesy of Kate Sikorski.
Kate Sikorski | Ms. Wareh Post Surf Sesh at Secrets– DETAIL 1. Courtesy of Kate Sikorski.
The artist is herself a white, Orange County native and in her works, she is looking to Muslim women as both her subject and muse. As such, their bodies and forms are the main subjects of the works. However, the women Sikorski portrays are not at all sexualized, “othered,” or portrayed in a stereotypical manner. Indeed, many of the voluntary participants whom Sikorski has drawn and taught to surf are very supportive and excited about both the project and the finished product. In some ways, the varied and emotional reactions the artwork invokes could reflect more about the people reacting and the very times we live in now than they do about the artist or her motivations.
However we look at it, Sikorski’s work is layered. Layered in and with many meanings, both literally and metaphorically. The works themselves are physically composed from a combination of sculpture and three-dimensional drawings using found materials such as pier wood, drift wood, discarded fabrics, and furniture. There is an ecological undertone that is not at all beside the point to Sikorski. And then there are also the many meanings viewers place on the art, in addition to viewers’ interpretations of the artist’s underlying intentions.
These layers also make the works and subject more richly complex and interesting to contemplate—and I look forward to seeing how reaction to Sikorski’s many layers changes with time.
Kate Sikorski earned her M.F.A in figurative drawing from California State University, Long Beach and her B.A. in Global Studies from UCSB. Sikorski has work in multiple upcoming shows (listed below). You can also view her website or Facebook page for more information.
- 3 Year Anniversary Show, Rothick Art Haus, Fullerton – CA, July 14th: 7-10 pm
- Coastal Commons, Catalyst Art Space, Westminster – CA, August 11 – Sept 8
- Partners in Crime, Hibbleton Gallery, Fullerton – CA, September 7th
- Girls Doin’ It, The Loft at Liz’s, Los Angeles – CA, September 8-Oct 5
- Stepping Out, with the women’s artist collective “Figure Eight,” in Michigan, TBA
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.
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