The Gallery at Penn College presents Kay Healy’s ‘Vestiges’

The Gallery at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, 1 College Ave., presents “Vestiges,” an exhibit by Kay Healy from May 23 through July 23.

Gallery director Penny Lutz explains, “This is the last exhibition of our 2016-17 season. The exhibit runs through the summer so visitors have more time to stop by the gallery.” The 2017-2018 season will be announced in July.

Artist Kay Healy was long interested in art and history, but “never considered becoming an artist until [she] took a required studio class [her] junior year at Oberlin College in Ohio.” During her time there, she found herself inspired by by visiting artists that gave lectures at the school such as Pepon Osorio, Andrea Zittel and Allen McCollum. “Pepon Osorio was especially influential because I loved the way his artwork connected to communities and social practice,” Healy said.

“After graduating, I took courses at Hunter College, where I learned more about ceramics and installation with Sana Musasama and went on to receive my MFA in book arts and printmaking at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I have lived and worked in Philadelphia since 2006, and after graduate school, I worked in a number of nonprofit organizations while continuing my studio practice,” Healy continued. “I was associate director of the Cultural Arts Center, a center for adults with developmental disabilities and the education manager for Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a visionary art environment of mosaics and found objects created by Isaiah Zagar. Both of these positions increased my interest in folk and outsider art, as well as community-based artwork with strong narrative elements.”

Trained as a printmaker, Healy prefers to use screen prints to “experiment with the multiple.” She said, “I often create life-sized objects and large-scale installations that are immersive for the viewer. I began creating life-sized prints in 2008, and started printing pieces on fabric in 2010. My mom taught me the trapunto method, where you quilt two pieces of fabric and stuff it from behind, creating a bas-relief effect. I enjoy the flexibility and texture of working with fabric, and have recently been drawing, painting and sewing one-of-a-kind fiber pieces. I have also been experimenting with used clothing and found objects within my pieces, and have been making gestural suspended work using armature wire and monofilament (aka fishing line). In the last few months I have started working with clay again, and am combining ceramic and fabric in some of the new works included in this exhibition. Like working with fabric, I love the initial malleability of clay and while it is very fragile once fired, the details and evocative texture you can achieve with clay are extremely appealing to me.

Healy has been influenced by her artist mother, Julia Healy, and her author and illustrator husband, Greg Pizzoli. “While in graduate school, I also had the opportunity to intern with the printmaker, Daniel Heyman. Daniel introduced me to the idea of working from interviews of people, since he participated in a project where he created prints based on the legal procedural interviews of prisoners from Abu Ghraib,” she added.

Healy’s “Vestiges” exhibit features a number of new pieces, in addition to works from the last three years. In her “Lost and Found” piece (2014-2016), Healy presents over 90 three-dimensional objects, all which are based on a person’s story of a lost object. “For the project, I interviewed and received submissions of lost items from over forty people, and recreated them as life-sized stuffed objects for the project, which was originally showcased at the Free Library of Philadelphia,” described Healy.

Other elements of the exhibit include pieces from the artist’s residency at the Walton Arts Center and pieces inspired by interviews conducted with Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II.

The “Emmy Series” (2016) resonates personally with Healy: “The ‘Emmy Series’ was created in response to the physical assault of my best friend while she was walking home from the gym in Philadelphia in April 2015. An unknown man punched her from behind, shattering her molar, breaking her jaw and leaving her temporarily unconscious. I was called by the police and was with her a few moments after she was attacked. The man was never found.” Healy created two pieces from her imagination and incorporated replica clothing. “The piece titled ‘Emmy: Reach (Real)’ is made from her Emily’s real sweatshirt from the night of the attack, and has ripped pockets and traces of her blood,” she said.

Healy’s more recent work has a noticeable shift to her own story and familial relationships. “I have included several pieces created with casts of the hands of my mother and father, as well as my own hand. My parents divorced when I was five or six, and these pieces address my experiences with their separation, with split loyalty, and the process of individuation,” Healy said.

As for the title of the exhibit, Healy said, “The term ‘vestige’ is usually used to describe an organ that has been reduced or has become functionless over the course of evolution; or like the appendix, its function may also be a mystery. In these recent works, I have been working with incomplete body forms, limbs, and faceless figures. Some features are exaggerated, while others are hidden or materially altered to connote the aspects of ourselves that have an unclear utility or function.”

Clearly, Healy examines the world around her closely and strives to make sense of it through her artwork. She believes “art can have a tremendous impact on the artist, on viewers, on other artists, and on the development and understanding of our culture. It can bring people and communities together, can become the impetus for innovation and dialog, and can be a catalyst for change.”

Healy’s creative endeavors may be viewed by the public at The Gallery from May 23 through July 23. A Meet-the-Artist reception will be held 4:30-6:30 p.m. June 29 with a gallery talk at 5:30 p.m. More information can be found online at www.pct.edu/gallery.

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