Kathy Hirshon

Kathy Hirshon’s Charred Narratives

Kathy Ryan Hirshon knows that her philosophy of art flies in the face of much of contemporary art and art critical theory. Because she believes that art, at its best, should trigger our hearts, souls and senses to unite in balance, equanimity, happiness and joy. She subscribes to the dangerously revolutionary theory that promoting this sort of harmony is the most challenging and noblest role of artmaking. She gently points out that it is also the one shared by every spiritual leader on the planet.

When Kathy Hirshon talks about how she makes art, she discloses that in the painstaking process of crafting her remarkable “Charred Narrative” artworks, she frequently finds herself in a semi-trance state. She says she often “gasps with wonder”, as the pieces seem to spontaneously reveal themselves at her urging, as much as she creates them.

Beginning with a piece of wood, selected for her connection to the beauty of its grain, Hirshon washes a thin layer of color in a fluid shape onto the piece, responding to the grain in a sort of “echo”. She then picks up her burning tool, heated to a glowing 950 degrees and chooses a beginning point, never knowing how it will be received, as dot, or line, depending on the softness—the vulnerability—of the cells of organic surface below it. Then the dance commences between material and artist, often continuing for days, even weeks. Prodding the surface with the burning tool, the artist moves in and out between her training and a deeper, intuitive process— sometimes following grain, sometimes fighting it, relieving the tension as she alternates with more layers of color or stain. Then Hirshon recommences her beautiful destruction, burning and burning, again and again, gently yet firmly—as she must—for the art to be revealed.

Eventually, the most difficult challenge for every artist is reached—the decision is made that the intimate, back-and-forth relationship is over. Enough has been done.The artwork is complete. A leavetaking occurs, a little grieving over the birth and the loss, as Hirshon’s new child enters the world, to search out and find its destined home.