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Kathranne Knight opens “Given Form” in Smith Gallery

Studio Art lecturer Kathranne Knight with one of the pieces from “Given Form”, her exhibition in Smith Gallery. Photo by Isaac Ferber.
Studio Art lecturer Kathranne Knight with one of the pieces from “Given Form”, her exhibition in Smith Gallery. Photo by Isaac Ferber.

Lecturer Kathranne Knight’s exhibition “Given Form” opened on Sept. 30 in Grinnell’s Smith Gallery. Knight has been teaching on campus since January 2019. Her current exhibit features intricate graphite and colored pencil drawings featuring the silhouettes and contours of human figures and hands, radiating colorful patterns and designs.

Knight drew inspiration for her work from the difficulty of capturing a subject’s likeness—visual or otherwise. Knight was traditionally trained and began her artistic education by “[l]ooking at still lifes and doing portraits.” She states that “when you begin to question perception and reality, what makes something real, you realize that as an artist you are making some sort of translation of reality.”

“Given Form” is inspired by this degree of separation. Knight reveals that her drawing, which features the silhouette of a face was a play on the blind contour “that we all do in drawing 101.”

“I placed my head right on a piece of paper and then tried to trace my own head.” Knight said.

The multiple contour lines, which represent multiple attempts to capture her own likeness, were Knight’s way of “poking fun a little bit at the difficulty of being self reflective, or the absurdity of it, maybe not being able to know fully yourself.”

Knight’s work also explores the difficulty in attempting to understand others. One drawing features the silhouettes of her child and a friend. In its creation she was “[w]ondering about their bodies, how they are known.” She explores how her loved ones are seen by others. Yellow hands peek around the friend’s silhouette as if grasping for a hug.

When asked about the hands repeated throughout her exhibition, Knight mentioned the Chauvet Cave in Southern France which is lined with the oldest paintings yet discovered, including walls of handprints.

“The hand is the basic impulse, wanting to make ourselves known, a document of existence.” Knight said. “Given Form” seems to be attempting to document her existence, her perceptions of the world.

Knight’s face lit up upon being asked about her time at Grinnell.

“It’s going great, I am enjoying it. I love it!” Knight said. “It’s so interesting to me to talk with students about how they are seeing, how they understand visual language, and try to get the students to not take for granted anything and to pull back and to talk about things in terms of balance, line and composition.”

In fact, the drawings Knight is currently working on were inspired by a project in her Studio Art course last year that asked her students to slow down. The assignment was to create a sculptural image using metal wire. 

She asked the students to not force their ideas on to the material, but instead “back up” and ask, “What does the material want to do?” Watching the students experiment inspired her as well. Her newest drawings come from with the drawing the line of curved wire.

“Given Form” will be in the Smith Gallery until November 2nd. The Studio Art faculty selects the exhibits in the Smith Gallery, and while the Spring includes many student shows, the Fall has less student applicants.

Knight asks the students milling into D-Hall “just to come in and look, observe. Take the time.”

One of the pieces from Kathranne Knight’s show “Given Form” in the Smith Gallery. Photo by Isaac Ferber.


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