march 10, 2017
Ava: Are you a cat or a dog?
Kass: Totally a cat, yeah. Are you a cat or a dog?
Ava: I’m a cat, 100%. Do you know why you’re a cat, or is it just so obvious to you that--
Kass: Dogs just have an emotional baseline where they’re just always good, you know? You can just count on them, they’re loyal, they’re calm, they do all the right things when you tell them to. I feel a lot more moody than that. I’m not a moody person, per se, but I just don’t feel like a dog. I’ll come when I want my attention.
Ava: Describe your studio practice as a party.
Kass: As a party? It kind of already is. I had some studio mates when I was at my studio, at VCU, who said, “looking at your paintings is like listening to your favorite music when you’re high,” which is pretty much what I do when I paint. I sound like such a pothead or something, but I get really stoned and sometimes a little bit tipsy and put on my favorite music like, bass-up, it’s my favorite thing to do. That one painting I showed you, it’s called “After Party”--
Ava: One of the big ones?
Kass: Yeah, that big beige one. All the figures are wearing party hats and it’s full of deflated balloons. I feel like some of my very best experiences have been communicating with other people during gatherings in natural settings, like bonfires, going to Texas Beach. That makes me feel alive.
Ava: Yeah, this painting is such a good translation of communing in outdoor settings. With the fire, especially.
Kass: The word communing--really good. For me, I put my whole body into the biggest paintings that I make, that’s why I love physically sanding them. I work myself out. I mean, getting into a physical workout while I’m painting--so great. I start out doing that, but for me, I have this requirement--I’m sure you can see it in my work--for pristineness. That’s something that’s absolutely non-compromisable for me, it’s part of the process, I love doing that complicated little shit just as much as I love doing the full-body workout. So I start really abstract, I’ll spray paint, use a big brush, weird shit--and then I’ll refine it through sanding that away and making pastel layers until I get to do the complicated stuff.
Ava: And so that’s the last step in your process, doing those fine details?
Kass: Yeah, it’s weird, there’s less soul in that part but it’s so much more what is paid attention to than the atmospheric quality. But it’s the most fun, most invested part for me...
I just had an obsession with boulders, painting them, making them, didn’t matter. And I started getting into making them out of fabric. [scrolling through images on computer] This is an embroidery. That was really fun. And this is also about Texas Beach, and partying at Texas Beach. Those are fireworks we lit off, and that’s our fire, and these are the geese flying south.
Ava: Yeah, I love the way your drawing translates to embroidery. So nice.
Kass: I’m sad that I gave that one away. It was kind of a memorial to somebody, a friend of ours who had died. So I gave it to his girlfriend.
Ava: That’s really nice.
Kass: Yeah, so--making boulders, making these objects, and wanting people to be a part of them. I made these boulders out of papier-mache and I had this idea that I’d learn to walk on my hands and I’d try to walk through them.
Ava:That’s so good, did that ever happen?
Kass: I’m still to this day trying to figure out how to walk on my hands.
Ava: What is your morning ritual?
Kass: I’ve been super depressed for at least four or five months. It’s been really, really, really hard to wake up. I will wake up, and I will set ten alarms, and I’ll keep pressing snooze and lay there in a dream state for a really long time. And then, I’ll come open that window and sit out there, sometimes. I always wash my face really hard with cold water to try to wake myself up, and usually, these days, I make grits.
Ava: What does romantic mean to you, and what is your idea of romance?
Kass: Oh my god. It’s like tragedy. It feels like romance is enhanced by loss or sacrifice and the best stories--the greatest romance stories, the obvious ones--
Ava: They’re all tragedies!
Kass: Yeah, they’re all really tragic. It’s like, secretly revelling in being sad, you know? Just a little bit. Like crying in the mirror or something.
Ava: It’s like when people say distance makes the heart grow fonder. It’s that feeling of being most in love with someone when they’re not there. But maybe that’s just yearning, maybe that’s not actually--I don’t know. But yeah, that feeling of absence makes it more… delicious, maybe?
Kass: The complacency of easily being with the person wouldn’t actually be the kind of love that is romance. I don’t know. All my work is about yearning and I think my work is romantic and a little bit naive, in ways.
Ava: Naive in what ways, do you think?
Kass: I think sometimes I think from a childish perspective, and I like childish painters. Even though I’m clean and neat, the kind of rendering that I do can sometimes be near surgical in application. My colors and attitudes that I depict are kind of childish. I think that you get older, you get unhappy, you do not nice things to other people, people do not nice things to you, it’s just really complicated to be an adult. Sometimes I don’t always feel like the nicest person, I don’t feel like the best person that I could be, I mean we’re always working on that. It’s like, maybe this is what I wish that I was, or this is who I hope that I am, or something in me still is this, to just kind of be a child and approach like, sexual themes and approach themes of loss.
Ava: When was the last time you screamed?
Kass: I screamed into somebody’s shoulder a few days ago. But maybe I’ll scream today. That would be great. I feel pretty good right now. I feel like I could scream and let things out, maybe make something, just by talking about it all. That feels really good.
Ava: Do you scream often? Or are you not a screamer?
Kass: Never really been a big voice yeller. Voice raiser.
Kass: I think it’d be good for us, maybe, like since we don’t, you know?
Ava: Probably, maybe! But it makes me feel so uncomfortable to bring myself to do it sometimes. I never scream. Occasionally, I’ll let out a squeal of joy. And that’s another thing, it’s like, where do I scream? I don’t know, I don’t have anywhere to scream, where I would feel comfortable screaming.
Kass: If I did it here, someone would call 911.
Ava: Yeah. You can always scream into your pillow, but that’s a little cliché.
Kass: Yeah. I hiked Old Rag Mountain recently, and for this reason alone was one of the most amazing things: when I went up there like two weeks ago, it was so quiet. It was the most quiet I’d ever heard. It was like being underwater. Like being so inside your head walking up--not a single wind through the trees. It was unbelievable. No one else was around. We encountered hikers once, coming down, but everybody was leaving because it was getting kind of dark when we were going up, and the trees were bare. There was no wind. It was pounding silence. And that would have been a really good time to scream.
Ava: But sometimes silence screams loud enough. Maybe that’s a ridiculous thing to say.
Kass: No, it was so loud!
Ava: Silence can be loud. If I ever scream, I’m screaming with my silence.