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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Kate Just

Melbourne,
Australia

Kate Just was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1974 but moved to Melbourne, Australia, in 1996. She is known for her diverse practice encompassing large-scale sculptural knitted work, mixed-media installation, collage and digital print.

Kate Just holds a Bachelor of Science in Film Making from Boston University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, and a Master of Arts (Fine Arts) from RMIT University, Melbourne. She has exhibited her work across Australia at a range of public, artist run and commercial galleries including Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Spaces Tasmania, and Daine Singer Gallery.

Just has been shortlisted for numerous national prizes including the Beleura National Works on Paper Prize 2010, The Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, 2009, The Blake Prize, 2009 and the 2007 RIPE: Art& Australia Award. In 2006, Just was the winner of the Siemens Fine Art Prize. She was an artist in residence at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne 2007, at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces from 2008 - 2009 and will undertake a residency at Krems Artist in Residence in Austria in 2011 and the Australia Council Studio in Barcelona in 2012. She has been a lecturer at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne since 2005.

Feminist Artist Statement

My tactile sculptures and installations are reinterpretations of my own experiences in relation to historical or fictional representations of femininity. In all my works, I look at the materiality and power of bodily experience, and its potentially transformative effect on identity.

In earlier elaborate knitted works, I drew on Greek myth, art history and biblical folklore linking women with nature to metaphorically reflect a range of my own personal experiences including the death of my brother, sexual awakening, and my desire to be a mother. These included a life-sized tree embedded with the faces and hands of my family, a Persephone-like figure descending into the muddy waters of her suburban lawn, a Bosch inspired pink fountain approximating a giant uterus, and the last moments of a Daphne’s chosen transformation into a laurel bush.

More recently, I have been attempting to ‘write’ my own and a wider female bodily history with resin-clay sculptures and collages of archetypal objects and forms including spiders webs, ominous eggs, keys, vessels and a range of mysterious tools and instruments.

<p>Paradise</p>

Paradise

This mostly hand knitted work is a contemporary fusion of Eve’s temptation and Greek goddess Persephone’s descent into the underworld, imaging both women’s journey into the dark and unknown regions of the self.

Paradise

This mostly hand knitted work is a contemporary fusion of Eve’s temptation and Greek goddess Persephone’s descent into the underworld, imaging both women’s journey into the dark and unknown regions of the self.

My Daphne

The myth of Apollo’s unrequited love of Daphne, and her chosen transformation into a laurel tree has been interpreted by a range of artists. Just’s My Daphne is encased in a binding, protective, knitted surface and depicts the last moment of metamorphosis. A single fair arm - the only human vestige - reaches out, patting for the place where her head might be.

Shed That Skin

Shed That Skin was inspired by paintings Just saw in Europe by Van der Goes, Michelangelo, Hieronymous Bosch and Tiepolo which image the serpent tempting Eve with fruits from the Tree of Knowledge. Biblical descriptions and these paintings portray the serpent as a beautiful woman on the top and a snake on the bottom. Her face tilts towards Eve in sisterhood or slight sexual provocation; sometimes her hands and expression mirror Eve’s. This early story and centuries of its retelling mark snakes as dark, evil creatures and women as easily tempted and untrustworthy. Just was inspired to knit that burdensome skin and let both creatures shed it.

The Garden of Interior Delights

Just’s ambitious knitted sculpture is a reinterpretation of the strange pink fountain from the first panel in Heironymous Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights (c.1500). Bosch’s paradise is a fantastical one, featuring wildly imaginative structures, which appear to be a blend of plant, body and man-made forms. While Art historians and theorists insist Bosch’s fountain refers to either the alchemical sign of Cancer (the crab), or a pelican (an ancient sign of Christ’s sacrifice), Just focuses instead on its uncanny resemblance to the female ovaries and fallopian tubes. In Just’s hands, the structure is elaborated with pink fleshiness, new orifices, folds and liquid spray making it a giant totem to femininity and sexual reproduction.

Hatching

A sculpture from Just’s exhibition, A New Day in a Strange Land, Hatching was one of a series of sculptural works in a ‘moonlit landscape’ exploring archetypal symbols of metamorphosis or birth.

Diane

Diane is one of seven collages in Just’s Bombshell series. The title draws on the “Bombshell Girl” or “pin-up” girls who were painted onto the sides of WWII planes, bombers, and their bombs. This series extends Just’s ongoing interest in the idea that women and ‘machines’ can be considered as potentially interchangeable within the male imagination.

Virtually legless and armless though implying movement through their curved bases, handles and tubes, Just’s bombshells are anthropomorphic combinations, bringing together both ‘women’ and machines, though perhaps of the domestic, rather than war-waging, sort. These fabulous femmes are comprised of various categories of objects which have actual or historical associations with the feminine, including the natural, the domestic and the bodily. As Just states: “Each collage represents for me an archetypal (rather than stereotypical) notion of ideal femininity - that she is youthful, fertile, desirable, and useful.”

Furthering Just’s interest in the biological mechanisms of femininity, each of these collaged ‘bombshells’ has been named after the female brand-names of contraceptive pills: a chemical intervention in female biology that has both liberated and yet programmed the female body.

Her Keys

Drawn to the mysterious form and symbolism of keys, one day as Just sat down to draw with her daughter she found herself drawing a series of unusual black keys. Just eventually decided these relate to the spaces “around and inside the female body”. Intrigued, she decided to make them as overscaled clay sculptures, imbedding personal or collected visual motifs or ‘scripts’ in each one and basing their shapes and styles on various historical eras and types. Of the final works - a series of thirty two keys - one key has an Egyptian hieroglyphic for placenta at the top of it, another is like an eye of a needle, one is a flower, one has the Greek female symbol for Juno while other forms are invented by Just. Many of the keys have tightly knitted black handles or embellishments.

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