Artist Katherine Boxall on virtual connections, mental blocks and 6 AM puppy cuddles in COVID-19 crisis
Katherine Boxall is the most recent artist to have an installation hanging at the Mint Museum Uptown as part of Constellation CLT. She’s also the first of many artists that we are asking about how the coronavirus — and shift in the world — is affecting their day-to-day lives, as well as the art they create.
Studio location: West Charlotte
Describe the artwork you create and medium your use.
I paint and draw using graphite, pastel, acrylic, oil, and spray paint. Although mostly abstract, I do work representationally as well.
What artists inspire you and your work?
I am inspired by lots of artists, dead and alive. They are not restricted to the visual landscape, writers and musicians are huge sources for me too. Right now I am thinking a lot about my MFA mentors from the Bay Area such as Alicia McCarthy, Brett Reichman, Maria Elena Gonzalez, Jeremy Morgan, Danielle Lawrence, Terry Powers, Felicita Norris … just to name a few.
What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?
I don’t have a favorite piece(s). Everything that I make comes out of a certain time and context. Each work has it’s own stories and reasons, so it isn’t obvious to me how I would judge them on the same playing field.
How does your environment influence your art?
Environment influences your mind, body, and being all the time. I’ve heard people say you’re only as smart as the five people you surround yourself with. I don’t know if that’s true, but surrounding myself with other creative and inspiring people has helped me reach my highest potential in the past. It’s obviously very challenging to do that right now, so I am trying to connect virtually as much as I can with the people I love and keep my environment as uplifting as I can. Being a painter is about being aware of your ways of seeing, then learning to adapt and use them. Even though my environment is physically the same (in my studio) the psychological environment is different. So I’m working to find a way to level my emotions towards to the crisis and transform them into a positive output.
Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.
I usually start my day with coffee and petting my golden retriever puppy Sophie. The pandemic hasn’t dawned on her so she continues to wake me up at the usual time (6am). Now that I don’t leave the house to exercise, we’ve been going on longer walks instead and calling family to check-in.
Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?
I feel grateful that my work is already self-directed and motivated, but the toll of this crisis is making it challenging to feel ‘inspired’. Right now, I am working to break down those mental blocks and use the opportunity to push myself and my work.
Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home or going to your studio?
Both. I am working from home for Jerald Melberg Gallery as much as I can and then spending the rest of my time in the studio. I am the only tenant in the warehouse, so my studio is literally the ultimate place to work while social distancing. I’ve also set up a space at home for small drawings and watercolors for a more low key/meditative creative vibe. I had a really busy winter with exhibitions and projects, so at the moment I am enjoying slowing own a bit.
How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?
Lots of cuddling with the dog and spending time with my partner at home. I’ve added some exercise later in the day to fuel myself with endorphins and a few extra skincare steps because I no longer have any excuses. I guess my #1 recommendation (if you can) would be to eat chocolate while wearing a bathrobe on the couch watching your favorite show. In my experience, few things in life feel as luxurious. I’d also treat yourself to reading fiction and steeping some tea, anything to get a good night’s sleep.
What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?
I’m always cooking and we do it all. Breakfast has expanded beyond the smoothie to eggs, banana breads, muffins, etc. For lunch we have the leftovers from the previous night’s dinner which is usually salmon, cod, steak, chicken, homemade pizza, it just goes on. Cooking has always been a creative outlet for me so if anything the pandemic has just ramped that up. Watching my Instagram story will usually leave you hungry.
What are you currently reading?
The New York Times (it’s not for the weak)
What is your favorite music choice?
All kinds of things as the day goes, but Medasin, Future, and Lane 8 seem to be dominating my current playlists.
What is your favorite podcast(s)?
The Daily, The Journal, How I Made This
What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?
I know for myself that being a busy body can sometimes act as a distraction from the things I really need to work on or slow down to appreciate. Socially, I hope this will put in perspective our real values and help us prioritize them in more human way. Systematically, I am hopeful to see protection for those who need it most. Only a fraction of us have the luxury to work from home or take time off (and even fewer for long periods), so I hope that our government and community really pulls together to support one another.
Look inside Charlotte-based artist Katherine Boxall’s west Charlotte studio. Boxall was the Mint’s first Constellation CLT artist of 2020, and in partnership with the Young Affiliates of the Mint, the Mint’s Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chats with Boxall to give us a glimpse into the artist’s creative process, her striking works of art, and the studio where it all comes together.
12 Books Mint Staffers Are Reading During These Crazy COVID-19 Times
We all need some inspiration for how to make the most of the time while home. From artful reads to novels and nonfiction, here’s what the Mint staff is reading. And though we know a run to the library is out, check out Audible, Hoopla, and Overdrive for digital versions.
Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda
My niece sent me this book, assuming I would enjoy it because No. 1, I’m a man, and No. 2, I have six cats. She was right! This small, but completely delightful book profiles 30 famous and talented men — Mark Twain, Romare Bearden, Freddie Mercury, and Sir Isaac Newton, to name a few — and their love for their cats. Sam Kalda’s breezy, anecdote-laden write-ups, and wonderful color illustrations make this the purr-fect publication to pick up this reader’s mood every time he opens it.
—Brian Gallagher, Curator of Decorative Arts
Vincent Van Gogh: Letters from Provence by Martin Bailey
An important moment in the history of this region of France. I always think it’s very important to hear the firsthand accounts from historical figures whenever possible. You get to know them better and often gain insights into their daily lives that never make it into biographies.
—Todd A Herman, PhD, President and CEO
Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel
I first began this book because of my love and curiosity for the Abstract Expressionist and the movement that changed the art world with swirls of color, often rooted in emotion rather than subject matter. But more specifically, I dove head first in this book because it features five of the women that passionately threw themselves into the middle of this movement. These artists, against all odds, used art to understand the chaos that surrounded them during a time when the world was changing drastically. When I first started reading it, we were not yet in the midst of a pandemic, but now as I read, it gives me hope that on the other side of our current situation there will be a lot of beautiful creativity… Who knows, maybe even a new art movement.
—HannaH Crowell, Exhibition Designer
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
This book is about girls who applied radium to wash their faces before it was known how dangerous it was. Great lesson in history.
—Lyndee Champion Ivey, Executive Assistant
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I am reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. So far the book is about a young boy who lost his mother in a tragic accident at the Met. Theo, the young boy, survives and takes a small painting out of the museum when he escapes. The book is about love and loss, and the different people that come into Theo’s life. This is a book I haven’t been able to put down.
—Martha Snell, Grants Manager
The Girl with the Louding Voice: A Novel by Abi Daré
I just started Abi Daré’s The Girl with the Louding Voice, one of my Book of the Month Club picks. (NOTE: BOTM is perfect for self-quarantined book lovers.) It’s about a 14-year-old Nigerian girl who is first sold into marriage, then into servanthood, but remains determined to find her voice — and her future.
—Caroline Portillo, Director of Marketing
The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
The One Thing takes the position that multitasking is ineffective and that we should concentrate on one goal at a time. The core idea is to determine what single achievement is most important in getting you toward your goals. I began reading this about 10 days ago in response to my ever-growing, unmanageable to-do list. As all of our lives go through rapid change, I’m grateful to have the reminder to slow my brain down and focus on the most important things.
—Katherine Steiner, Chief Registrar
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
I started reading I Am Malala last week. It was a gift from my boss, who knows how much I love nonfiction stories, especially about women. Here’s a little summary: “When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. She was shot in the head while riding the bus home from school.
—Kurma Murrain, Community Programs Coordinator
Becoming by Michele Obama
This is the April discussion book for my book club. I have been a member of The No Name Book Club for over 20 years. While wine is an important part of our meetings, this is a serious group of readers. If one is present, it’s understood that you read the book! I consequently make it to about half of the meetings per year.
—Amy Grigg, Manager and Buyer for Retail Operations
The Complete Book of Garlic by Ted Jordan Meredith
I am currently re-reading The Complete Book of Garlic by Ted Jordan Meredith because:
- Garlic is one of the most fascinating crops. What else do you plant in November?
- The photographs alone are worth taking the time to crack this book open.
- It is calming to be gardening and reading about gardening during these stressful times.
—Eric Speer, Associate Registrar
FOR THE KIDS
Poe Won’t Go by Kelly DiPucchio
Poe is a friendly elephant, but when he decides to just stop moving in the middle of the town, everyone is in an uproar about how to get him moving along. After lots of silly attempts by well-meaning grown-ups, one kind girl takes the time to talk with Poe and discovers the very reason he won’t go. A story of kindness and friendship, and favorite of my 4-year-old.
—Michele Huggins, Media Relations and Communications Project Manager
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle
A recommendation from my 21-month-old son, Jacob. It’s a tale about a truck who heads to the big city and encounters lots of traffic and me-first personalities. Chaos ensues, and our protagonist has to use his country sensibilities to effect change. Jacob’s passion for “beep beep” is indefatigable. Mine? Well …
—Caroline Portillo, Director of Marketing