Working Through the Layers

16 May 2017

The interactive art of Kristen Crouch


Sometimes life throws a curve ball so momentous that it changes the course of our destiny and becomes an inextricable thread in our most authentic self-expression. For an artist this can also mean that the foundation for their artistic journey is set in place. At 26 years old, Kristen Crouch is pioneering her very own artistic process, managing the local gallery Wabi Sabi, and organizing some of the most progressive, multi-media art shows in Wilmington, showing that life’s challenges can be worked through in time.  

Just last year Crouch produced an ‘interactive art experience’ with over 20 local artists that was inspired by the different colored chakras, wheels of energy in the body, and included performance, spoken word, color coordinated food, music and visual arts. “I was born in Wilmington and feel passionate about it supporting an innovative art scene,” says Crouch, sitting cross-legged on an old sofa at Wabi Sabi.

Growing up in an artistic family, Crouch was a dedicated dancer and spent a large portion of her youth at the Hannah Block Arts Center around a thriving artistic community. Moving away from her initial interest in fashion design, she fell in love with photojournalism, and the art of telling a story through images which led to her studying Photography with a Sculpture minor at SCAD. She discovered experimental inkjet printing, digital sculpture, and laser cutting among a host of other skills.  

Memories are often the starting point for her work, which she connects to the sudden death of her older brother when she was just fifteen years old. The still largely unexplained tragedy has carved her sense of time into before and after, and has woven a shroud of nostalgia into the very fabric of her deeply personal work. 

“I was going to go study in New York where my brother lived. He always encouraged me to follow my dreams. Obviously his death changed everything. My first important series of art was about Josh and although I continually grow as an artist, his death did initiate my process,” says Crouch surrounded by her striking work. She goes on to explain the many layers of her process, which are just as relevant and profound as the final product. She begins with an image that speaks to her. Then Crouch manipulates the colors by typing significant dates into Photoshop, such as the day of someone’s birth, or death, to digitally mix new shades. She then builds the image with other significant photo’s, or words from an old notebook, adding textured layers of meaning and emotion to the story it’s telling.

“The image will suddenly arrive at a point where it is a visual expression of exactly how I feel about the subject,” says Crouch. “For example, the picture with my cousin on her wedding day is about the joy of the moment, and yet the innate feeling of us inevitably growing up and growing apart.”

Once the image reaches this point, the next step is the printing. Crouch prints onto wood and metal, often grinding out the metal sheets in ways that also emphasis the feeling or idea. Her artistic process is an unusual blend of very controlled factors, such as the numbers that are used in the digital programming, to simultaneously having little control over where each step is taking her art.

“By creating new work from old memories, my art depicts a cyclical timeline that is not linear. When we remember moments from our past, we often change them in our mind, we choose to forget certain things or zoom in on others. Our perspective shifts over time,” explains Crouch with her signature thoughtful intensity. Printing onto ground metal sheets causes the image to change, depending on how the light reflects off the metal. The same piece can alter as the observer moves around it; in the same way that our memories alter each time we re-visit them. Printing on to wood adds the gift of the grain, also changing aspects of the image in ways that cannot be foreseen. 

Some of Crouches work involves photos that have been distorted beyond recognition―photos that originally depict people, can end up looking like landscapes. Crouch talks about this demonstrating the idea of people as places, for instance people becoming synonymous with a sense of home.

Her work is clearly rooted in stories and the myriad of feelings tied into them. The many stages of her process perfectly reflect the human journey through life, through grief, through our accomplishments and our relationships―ever evolving, ever changing―occasionally arriving somewhere significant for a brief moment, before we are once again propelled on, into this great adventure called life.

Kristen Crouch accepts commissions, capturing your most personal moments in a completely unique way.

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