When Kayt Hester found her photography career floundering after the economy suffered in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she found herself with too much time and too many art supplies on her hands. One day, while bored and on the phone with a friend, Hester began playing around with spool of black darkroom tape, a type of masking tape used by photographers.
“I just had this tape laying around and I started pulling off strips of tape and I used the tape to make an image, a black and white image using the tape and a piece of paper,” Hester said recently. “It wasn’t a very sophisticated picture, but I liked the way it turned out and decided to start exploring more ways to create images with tape.”
Before long she said she was “hooked.” Soon her initial rudimentary designs became more elaborate and larger. Today Hester, who now describes herself as a “tape artist,” crafts her unique images in much the same way she created that first design while talking on the phone.
Starting with a blank white canvas, Hester pulls strips of black darkroom tape and lays the strips down on the canvas. Using strips of differing lengths and her trained photographer’s eye, she is able to create the illusion of shadow, light, depth, and other details.
‘I thought, this time around I’ll do something that’s really personal.’ – Kayt Hester
Her work varies in size, with some pieces being as small as 4” x 4” and other works being 4’ x 4’. In October 2007 she did an installation at Canco Lofts in Jersey City in which she used the condo building’s display case-sized windows as if they were her canvas. Ironically, she said the smaller pieces sometimes take longer to complete than some of her larger pieces.
“With the smaller pieces I have to make teeny, tiny rips of tape for teeny, tiny details like eyeballs, and that’s maddening,” she explained. “With the bigger pieces it’s easier to tear lips and eyes out of tape.”
Her artworks can take anywhere from a couple of days to more than a week.
Hester’s evolution from professional shutterbug to masking tape artist will be on full display this month at LITM, which is hosting her solo exhibit, “The Elegant Science of a Memory.” The exhibit opened on Aug. 7 and will run through the end of the month.
Hester said this exhibit is the most difficult and personal one she has done because it forced her to face her own memories and past work as an artist.
“My past two shows were kind of light and fluffy,” Hester admitted. “Two years ago I did a show called ‘Formula of Summer,’ and it was all about bikini girls and the beach. Last year I did a show called ‘Caribou,’ which was based on a song by the Pixies. That show was very rock-and-roll. I thought, this time around I’ll do something that’s really personal.”
For her latest exhibit, Hester is revisited and re-interpreting work she did years ago as a photographer.
Press materials for the show note that in “The Elegant Science of a Memory” Hester will explore “one’s remembrance of past events and how this experience can serve as a reward or punishment in the present. Hester’s [earlier] artwork will serve as a visual catalog of her travels throughout Eastern Europe and reflections of her hometown during a time of optimism. Many of her pieces will be based off photographs taken prior to the events of September 11, 2001, a time in which she worked as a professional photographer and felt oblivious to the changes to come.”
Hester said that for her, this exploration was both painful and poignant.
“The photography part of my life didn’t exactly go as I planned and that was disappointing,” Hester reflected. “I disappointed myself by letting photography career lapse. So, I’m revisiting a lot of my old, favorite images for this show.”
Portion of exhibit to benefit animal league
Despite the focus of her latest exhibit, fans of Hester’s more whimsical work won’t be lost at this show, she said. The exhibit will include several pieces from her beloved and well-received “umbrella series.”
“There’s a portion of the show that’s all about umbrellas. You could say that’s the sillier, lighter part of the show” she said. “Umbrellas are these very practical items and yet everyone always forgets their umbrella. They keep us dry and warm, but we kind of take them for granted. So, I love doing pieces that have umbrellas in them and a few of those pieces will be in this exhibit.”
In addition to her retrospective work and the umbrella series, Hester will also be donating a few small-sized limited edition pieces that will be sold to benefit the Hudson County Animal League.
All of her works will also be available for sale, with prices ranging from under $100 to about $900.
LITM is located at 140 Newark Ave.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.