Katy Ann Gilmore is a multi-disciplinary artist that brings together the worlds of mathematics and art. She pushes the boundaries of what you can do with shapes and intricate line work and transports you into spaces where dimension takes on an entirely new meaning. I can confidently say she makes me think math is way more cool than I would have ever believed was possible. We are so excited to hear more about her life, work and love of non-Euclidean geometry at the Disrupt conference - in the meantime, we had the chance to ask her a few questions. Check it out.
MB: We are so dang excited for you to come to Portland! Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while your here?
KG: I’m excited to be up there! In general, I’m looking forward to seeing murals around the city, meeting all others involved in WeMake, and maybe getting out for a short hike or walk around the city!
MB: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative journey up to this point?
KG: I grew up making things, but in the rural Midwest, I didn’t really have an idea of what it meant to make art professionally. I’ve been keeping journals since I was 8, so it’s fun to look back and see how many times I wrote that I just want to “make things” for my job. I feel so incredibly lucky that I get to wake up and do that each day!
I was always making things, and I studied both art and math in undergrad. After graduating, I still wasn’t sure about the feasibility of art as a career, but I moved out to LA 7 years ago for grad school. I didn’t have a car, money, or a large space to work. That really limited me in materials and flexibility. I found that I had to make my studio wherever I was, so drawing was a perfect medium to explore. I took projects with me and worked when I could. I was working full-time at the same time, so I’d also use my lunch break to draw. Then, as life began to stabilize, I started working in more 3D/installation terms.
The same cycle happened again when I quit my full-time job in late 2014. I started focusing on drawing again as I didn’t have a dedicated space to make art, and started to use Instagram as a tool to push small drawings for purchase. I really credit those times focusing on drawing for providing the foundation for my mural work today. My work and drawing eventually began to mature as I started bringing in ideas and interests from the past about perception and the ways we engage with the environments around us.
Now I’m balancing between working on murals and studio work for shows. It’s a really fun mix, and I love that murals and installation projects are a part of it!
MB: Your work is such a great combination of logic and creativity - how do you manage to bring the two together?
KG: Art and math have always been big parts of my life. I was always making something growing up, and also had a pretty heavy interest in buildings and architecture along with mathematics. The higher up in mathematics you go, the more abstract it becomes. You’re not so much dealing with numbers as concepts and problems. I really loved that, and particularly fell in love with non-Euclidean geometry. It’s been fun to see them naturally intertwine as I pursue ideas that seem interesting to me. I like that about art. Any interests that you have, no matter how seemingly disparate, can come together in what you make. Focusing on both has led to a natural expression of ideas through what I make.
MB: Is there a project that you’ve worked on that is particularly memorable? What made it special?
KG: I really loved working on my mural last summer at Facebook Los Angeles. I worked on it for a month, and it was fun to commute out to their office near the beach. I really enjoyed the vive of the offices, and had a great time making the mural. It was a marathon of a challenge, and I’m so happy with how it came together.
MB: You work in a lot of different mediums - drawing, murals, 3D installations - how does your planning and process vary between them? What stays the same?
KG: For all mediums, I usually start with pretty messy and initial ideas in my sketchbook. I take a sketchbook with me wherever I go, so when these ideas come (I tend to get a lot while driving, on a walk or hike, basically during any monotonous activity where my mind wanders), I draw them out. From there, I pick the winners to develop into nicer sketches. This is where they could deviate according to medium. At this point is when I figure out the details of how I’m actually going to make it. Once I figure that out, it’s the most satisfying and meditative part for me, seeing it all come together after so many steps.
It’s a big planning process, so I’m simultaneously in the stages of sketching on piece, working on a finished piece, or drawing in Illustrator to keep work flowing.
MB: If you could collaborate with one person on any project, who would it be and why?
KG: I would love to collaborate with Phillip K. Smith III. I think his work is so intelligent and interesting.
MB: We have to know - what happened with your Nissan Maxima!?
KG: That was such a fun project! The car wasn’t really in great running shape without some major intervention, so after documenting it well, I kept the hood and the spoiler, but got rid of the rest of the car.
MB: What are you drawing inspiration from lately?
KG: Lately, I’m finding inspiration from taking time to read, hike, and recharge. I’m taking time to slow down and think about what I’m making, which I think has been important for my work. Specifically, I’ve been going back and reading about the mathematical study of topology (the study of properties of spaces that are preserved through twisting or stretching of that object or space).
MB: What do you find yourself doing when you’re not working?
KG: When I’m not working, apart from spending time with friends, I’m usually hiking or boxing.
MB: And finally, the official WeMake question: Why do you make?
KG: I’ve always felt an internal compulsion to make. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t drawing, painting, or tasking myself with some project. I find that I’m most myself when I get into the zone and work through ideas in this way.