Katie Herzog featured in Border Crossings Magazine 6.30.06

Girl Stories


Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.37.43 AM“I come from a line of storytellers and joke-tellers,” Katie Herzog says as a way of explaining why her paintings look the way they so. “I do it through my work.” Among her visual narratives is Elephant Walk, in which a number of naked men walking in a circle mimic the trunk-to-tail arrangement of elephants, except they use different body parts to make the connection. Not surprisingly, the painting itself was generated out of a story. “My brother was in a fraternity in Michigan and I was always asking him to tell me about the frat hazing rituals because I thought they were so entertaining.”

The artistic fraternity of which she is a member includes artists like Dana Schutz, Peter Doig and Edvard Munch. “I really value work that has a raw quality to it.” She grew up in a household where another kind of rawness was visible. “My mother has always been a fan of Joel-Peter Witkin forever and there was a lot of work in the house. They’re friends now, but it was almost a borderline obsession.”

Many of Herzog’s paintings are generated out of dreams or experiences from her childhood and they are often Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.38.02 AMconnected to a mysterious sense of emerging sexuality. In Squid Love a girl finds herself in the amorous embrace of a squid, an image that came in a dream, which she claims her sisters experienced at the same time. Only later on did she see the Hokusai print called The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, but she admits that her early imagining was “a turn-on that evolved. I grew out of it.” In Girl with Cat she initiated a similar theme in which animals and desire combine. “When I was four my mom had this  boyfriend who had these huge catsand one of them would sleep in my bed. I was just beginning to be curious about how babies were made and I had this fear the cat was going to impregnate me and I was going to have cat babies. I was interested in that really cloudy sexuality.”Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.37.50 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.38.12 AMHerzog’s art has left behind a trail of her “discomfort with the concept of femininity,” what she calls “wrestling with a relationship I never quit fit into.” She describes Too Stoned as a painting” about this girl who is a mess and can’t quite keep her plants alive. At the time it was a bit of a self-portrait, as I was trying to navigate my way through womanhood.” While Herzog is quick to acknowledge the personal point of departure for her paintings, she is surprised by how much they resonate with viewers. “I have had a number of people come up to me and share similar stories. It’s as if in some weird way I’ve read their minds, or illustrated the thing they could never do themselves but they had thought a lot about.” Her realized dreams are permissions, for herself and others, to imagine a stranger world than the one in which we live. When she began drawing as a young child, she recognized it as a way to cope. That early quality remains an effect of her visual dreaming, but now her somnambulant world is available to a steadily growing number of viewers.

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