Kate Dodd is obsessed with excess, with the unwanted, the discarded, and the underutilized. In her work, she seeks to repurpose items that no longer have an essential use. Once they were manufactured in great quantities; then they were abandoned, superfluous, castoff.
Dodd’s starting point is the materials. She has said, “I have always had a tremendous fascination with materials and making. So when I see materials being disposed of without much thought … I see both treasure and mistreatment, and feel an immediate need to resurrect the neglected and disrespected.”
The work in this show continues Dodd’s use of ignored materials, often paper. In sculptures such as Decoy and Words Have Weight, for example, the artist has cut up Golden Book Children’s Encyclopedias that were popular in the 1950s and 60s. With paper strips and images cut from books, Dodd builds sculptures, creating new objects from materials no longer in use. Dodd remembers the books as presenting a confident view of the world, one that spoke of endless resources and unstoppable human progress. That view has since been tarnished, but by creating sculptures she recasts the words and images in new ways. The sculpture Coming Soon is particularly appropriate for this exhibition, which takes place just inches from the Raritan River, which recently overflowed its banks and flooded the Museum. The tower constructions made of optimistic text stand amid rising floodwaters caused by climate change.
As a location for Dodd’s work, Hunterdon Art Museum, a repurposed nineteenth century gristmill, is a perfect match. Like the materials the artist uses, the mill is no longer useful in its original context. In her site specific installation, Production Line, Dodd cleverly incorporates the mill’s grain chutes that exist as reminders of the building’s previous role in manufacturing. Paper lipstick holders pour out of the chutes in the Museum’s ceiling and seemingly move through walls into other spaces. The building, once important in the production of flour, a staple of life, now serves as a conduit for art, which is for some a necessity of life and for others mere gloss.