Artist Nina Katchadourian Invites Students to ‘Be Curious’
While installing the new MOA exhibit “Curiouser,” artist Nina Katchadourian and curator Veronica Roberts visited with BYU art students
Artist Nina Katchadourian works with student Annelise Duque
March 27, 2018
The light from the window poured into the studio space of art student Annelise Duque. Mount Timpanogos sat high in the background while florals and vibrant video stills filled the space. Duque sat with visiting artist Nina Katchadourian and showed her a video of foreign words and incorrect translations meant to explore Duque’s efforts to connect with her Filipino roots.
Katchadourian immediately reacted to the video, delving deeper into the layers of meaning. It was a perfect extension from Katchadourian’s BYU lecture, where she explained her fascination with exploring her mother’s Finnish heritage and her father’s Armenian background.
Brooklyn-based Katchadourian came to BYU with Veronica Roberts, the modern and contemporary art curator at the Blanton Museum of Art. While at BYU, the two spent time interacting with students through lectures and studio visits in addition to installing Katchadourian’s exhibit “Curiouser” in the BYU Museum of Art. The message they left with students was fitting — be curious.
Duque shared her experience with Katchadourian in her studio. “I was interested in the questions that Nina asked,” Duque said. “She asked questions about LDS culture and how that affects us. Also, a lot of her work has a lot of personality in it. She’s not afraid of hiding that. That’s something I hope to emulate.”
During the lecture, Katchadourian explained how she pushes herself to explore ideas before shutting them down. “It has taken me a long time,” she said, “to take seriously and learn that sometimes even if I think an idea is half baked, you have to kind of dig into it enough to see it through, make a leap of faith in a way to get it to its next level. You don’t always have to know exactly why you’re doing it. Sometimes you have to do it in order to find out why you’re doing it.”
“You don’t always have to know exactly why you’re [pursuing an idea]. Sometimes you have to do it in order to find out why you’re doing it.”
Katchadourian shared several works of art included in her exhibit that demonstrated her curious attitude. Specifically, Katchadourian referenced “Seat Assignment,” an ongoing series of photographs and videos Katchadourian creates during airplane flights with a Flemish artist twist.
“The thing I admire and respond to in Nina’s work,” Roberts said, “is the way Nina will have a ‘what if?’ idea — and often it’s a pretty absurd or irrational idea — but she follows those ideas for so long. I joke with her that she has no commitment issues because ‘Seat Assignment’ has been an eight-year project.”
Art student Annie Wing drew reassurance from Katchadourian’s remarks. “It was helpful for me because I’ve been feeling kind of in a funk,” Wing said. “To see this artist who has built this entire career based purely on curiosity, instincts, being open and pursuing ideas, sometimes for years without shutting them down, helped me want to be more open-minded about my work, be more curious and work through my problems.”
For Wing and Duque, one thing was clear — having Katchadourian and Roberts at BYU provided an invaluable educational experience. “It felt like art therapy,” Wing said. “It’s motivating and helpful to have someone who has walked the path of an art career come in and tell you it is possible and how to make it easier for yourself. I see these lectures as a road map for myself as a creator and as someone who’s pursuing a career in art.”