GIRL ALOUD: INTERVIEW WITH THE DESIGNER KATIE STOUT IN HER BROOKLYN STUDIO
The work of designer Katie Stout is best defined by a naïve pop aesthetic that manifests itself in pieces like panorama printed curtains, rugs and placemats woven in the shape of eyes and lips, soft chairs impossible to sit on, or an entire teenybopper’s bedroom. Also, there are lamps. Lots of lamps. Lamps in all shapes and sizes, many of them formed to look like naked cartoon girls. Prior to her eponymous solo show at R&Company gallery in New York this month, PIN–UP visited Stout at her Brooklyn studio to get the lowdown on her showdown.
How would you describe your upcoming show at R&Company?
It’s about body and formation. The show is about evolution, morphing, and change. It is an earthy feminine temple. I imagined women evolving out of lumps of earth like goddess mudskippers.
Are you taking over the space as an immersive environment similar to the Bedroom you showed at Design/Miami a year or two ago?
The way I originally envisioned it was a sort of pseudo-slumber party, really claustrophobic. But I realized I really wanted this show to be like walking into a ceremony, or a ritual — sort of like a temple. Usually everything is very bright, but for this I feel like everything will be a bit more toned down. There is still color, but it’s not gonna be like a barf of color. There are these giant wicker girls I made, and some marble pieces which feel like they are morphing, but in this frozen morph state. There is something about the marble and the neutral colors — I guess I wanted it to feel more earthy. There are also some coiled jute rugs, and I’m making girl wallpaper. I wanted to make this ocean of girls, and they are all like tangled together. When you look from far away it just looks like girls tangled together, but when you get closer, you’ll see all of the weird things they are doing[, nudes cheering, stretching, or flowing into yoga poses].
Tell me more about the girls in the show.
I guess the idea behind them is about how we always hear that girls are supposed to be a certain way. Of course they say, “there have been so many breakthroughs!” But I wanted to make these domestic objects, a lamp where the girls are sort of mischievous, as if they are totally misbehaving and distracted from their task. They’re naked, and there is just no one way to be in a domestic environment for them. I started looking at Allen Jones’s sculptures [which depict women transformed into items of furniture] and I thought “fuck you!” So, I’m making a wicker [girl] chair, and a [girl] bench. A guy in Mexico is fabricating them for me — he usually makes animals. And some of my lamps are a nod to [my] past [work], the older ceramic lamps, but bigger. I also made two lamps that have planters. I am also making curtains with girls embroidered on them. The whole show is earthier and more playful than my previous work.
So unlike Allen Jones, your girls aren’t overly sexualized?
That’s the thing. I don’t want them to be overly sexual. It’s just playful and lighthearted, even if they have cords coming out of their ass, out of their vagina, and going into their mouth. [Laughs.]
It’s playful, but it’s also radical and provocative. Do you consider your work feminist?
Yeah, I would say so. Yes it is, goddamnit, for sure! I love the girls! I also just made this giant sofa, Pepita. She had a very traumatic time getting to Santa Barbara for the show at the MCA [Free Play, curated by Alexandra Cunningham]. Some of her hair fell out in the crate she was packed in, it got tugged, and she literally got scalped. She was missing patches of hair and I had to go to Santa Barbara and fix her. [Laughs.] So Pepita*’s fate is up in the air right now. I don’t know where she’s going to go.
Poor Pepita! Does she leave any sisters?
Like, in utero? I want to make one for my show at Nina Johnson in Miami in December. It’s going to be called Sweetie Honey Pie Angel and it will be a more introspective take on the female form and on female relationships. It’s a little more secretive.
Are the girls ever joined by any male counterparts?
Someone commissioned a boy once, and I was like, “Fine. But he will be in a very submissive position!” [Laughs.] It’s a boy and a girl, but they are totally separate so the girl is just holding the lamp, and the boy is upside down. His penis is the switch.
Text by Natalia Torija. Photography by Antwan Duncan.
Katie Stout: Solo Exhibition opens on September 26, 2017 at R&Company Gallery in New York City.