Czech artist Kateřina Vincourová’s three-dimensional work “Arteria,” currently on display at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, explores fragile, existentialist topics inspired by her personal life.
Although the sculptures and mixed media work may come across as elegant and delicate, a closer look at the intertwining wooden installations, circular shelves hanging by a thread and miniature sculptures exposes the deeper intimacy and tension between the viewer and the space.
Vincourová began her artistic journey as a young child, often drawing inspiration from nature or common household items.
“It’s a question that just comes from my childhood. I was creative and used to play a lot with pens and paper. I also used to play in nature with flowers and with some beetles,” Vincourová said in an interview with The Hoya.
When Vincourová was 18, she began studying at the Moscow State Academy Art Institute. Two years later, she started classes at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and graduated in 1994. Her work was included in several noteworthy international exhibitions, such as the “After the Wall” exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1999.
Vincourová’s early work in the 1990s focused on the political climate of her country, the Czech Republic, specifically on the nonchanging or stationary situation of Czech society in the 1990s. When she began exhibiting her art in 2011, she started to shift from a political to a more personal focus, and it is this emphasis on her private experiences and relationships that remains prominent in her art today.
Discussing the inspiration behind “Arteria,” Vincourová explained how the exhibit embodies the qualities of a blood vessel. Like the interconnected and harmonic circulatory system, Vincourová’s pieces attempt to exhibit interactivity.
“Although they are objects or sculptures, they all visually have some kind of line which are all interconnected to the next object or to the next piece,” Vincourová said.
Yet blood vessels risk tearing. Because the exhibit is primarily made of household materials, Vincourová’s work displays a risky delicacy of its own: a chance the pieces could fall at any minute.
The decision to use these unusual materials came from Vincourová’s personal experiences.
“I was on a maternity leave for three years and was continuously fastening my twin daughters’ pants and extending elastic waistbands every time they grew a bit,” Vincourová said.
Through her experience as a stay-at-home mom, the artist realized the power ordinary objects have to convey loss or the passage of time.
“When I went back to my artistic work, I decided to use rubber and furniture to create bookshelves or libraries that symbolize family history,” Vincourová said. “I was interested in depicting these empty bookshelves that embody disappearing stories. We always feel that there is more content, but time goes by and the content disappears. I want to grasp this moment of disappearance.”
Energy and tension — both between the viewer and the art and between the various art pieces themselves — best describe the atmosphere of “Arteria.”
“It as if you are stretching this kind of elastic or rubber, and basically if you stretch it too much, it’s just going to break and fall apart, and this is the moment of tension both within the art piece and with the viewer,” Vincourová said.
Fragility is important to the work, both literally, in the material used, and in the metaphorical sense. Vincourová’s main priority for her work is to evoke the connection between the human body and its intimacy with its immediate environment.
“Instead of focusing on femininity, I am most interested in the larger concept of intimacy and the openness to speak about it,”
Vincourová said. “It is important to feel maternal and intimate with yourself, your partner and in any relationships in your life.”
The intersection of minimalistic compositions with fabrics and household objects, in addition to themes of privacy, intimacy and relationships, within “Arteria” differentiates it from her earlier, politically focused art exhibitions.
“Arteria” guides the viewer into Vincourová’s world, while developing the viewer’s own emotion and connection with the artwork. Although the exhibit explores themes of intimacy and private life, the abstractedness of the installations welcomes freedom of interpretation from the viewer, enabling one to find his or her own meaning in Vincourová’s work.
“Arteria” will be on view from Jan. 27 to March 11, 2018, at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.