Kaetlyn Able

Kaetlyn grew up in the suburbs in and around Boston, Massachusetts.  She holds a BA in Studio Art from Wellesley College and an MFA from the Museum School, Boston in affiliation with Tufts University.  In 2011 she moved to Montana with her husband and their infant son.  In the intervening years she continued making new work and honing her craft while caring full time for her family, having another baby, and surviving breast cancer.  She has exhibited her work throughout New England, New York, Montana and Washington.  Today she works full time on her art from her home studio in Bozeman.

Artist Statement:

I create dreamy portraits based on found historical photographs.  Using tattoo needles and an x-acto blade, I etch into thin layers of black ink that I have painted onto white clay panels.  Traditionally, this drawing technique is known as scratchboard, or scraperboard, but I don't love those clinical-sounding names.  They don't do the process, which feels utterly, completely and perfectly magical, any justice at all!  For me the practice is part meditation, part act of devotion.  I slowly build delicate layers of  marks, gradually adding more and more light and life to the image, until suddenly, a character and a story seem to emerge out of the black.  It's a surprise every time.  I often layer these black and white drawings with pops of colorful elements that I paint in acrylic gouache, creating further texture and dimension. 


My images, and the stories that they tell, are intuitively derived.  They seem to pop into my head, usually a bit hazy at first, until I begin to sketch them out and develop them on paper.  I look to old photographs from the 1800s--early 1900s, and my collected wildlife images for source material.  Once a sketch resonates deeply and viscerally with me, I transfer it to a panel and begin to bring it to life in a final direct etching.  As I work, the concepts behind the image reveal themselves.  Themes and ideas that come up again and again in my drawings include references to American and European folk tales, the history and mythology of the American West, and human connections to nature. 

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Kaetlyn Able