Inspired by the roles of masculinity and femininity, the wide availability of sexual content, and challenging the male gaze through sexual liberation, the Slovakia-born and Texas-based Katarina Janečková Walshe uses playful colors and characters to direct and discover the role of sexuality in the modern world. Katarina’s series* for Her Clique speaks to the notion of finding one’s strength in an oppressive environment. We sat down with Katarina to talk about what inspires her, how the personal experiences but also current events influence her artworks, the challenges and opportunities she faces as a woman artist and much more.
(* Finding Strength in Confined Spaces launches on May 5 with all of the proceeds from the sales, doubled by Her Clique’s donation, supporting survivors of domestic abuse).
How is the series Finding Strength in Confined Spaces inspired by current events?
During the pandemic we all read about how domestic violence cases have been on the rise. This is definitely an important topic to be mindful of both while learning to live in a new reality that had been created by the pandemic, but also in general. Parenthood and relationships are not easy and combined with tough situations, emotional distress and financial insecurity, we can easily slip into situations that are terrifying and many times very difficult to escape from.
These small paintings that I made are of intimate scenes, made with thick brush strokes. They feel crowded and confined to the small canvas space, but at the same time the women depicted are showing their confidence, strength and hope. The artworks’ paint covers the corners of the canvas, allowing the painting to reach beyond the confined spaces, same as we should always be able to reach out and ask for help.
All of the sale proceeds generously doubled by Her Clique will be donated to a Slovak organization called Brána do Života, supporting victims of domestic violence.
How does the series fit into, reinforce or challenge the rest of your recent work?
Every time I face new events and periods in my life, different thoughts and ways of working just naturally appear. This small, to me meaningful series were created at my new, very simple, secluded studio space in the nature, where I drove for 4 hours accompanied by my honest, wise and beautiful friend. On our way there, our conversations challenged me to think about different aspects of relationships, and how some of them can be very difficult -- absorbing us completely, while not always being the best or healthiest choices for us, and how important it is to receive support and guidance to navigate those tough situations.
Many of your paintings are based on self portraits. As an artist, do you ever feel doubly judged by those who look at your work but also look at you in your artworks?
Over the years I learned to accept criticism, and learned to live with the fact that it’s impossible to please everyone, if you want to stay true to yourself. It’s good to stay focused. Judgements don’t bother me anymore. To me, self portraits are very much the most intimate way of revealing my emotions to the public, but I don’t think about it while painting and then once it’s on the gallery wall for everyone to see, it’s too late to be shy :)
What draws you to sexuality and to sensual narratives in your work?
I am very curious about life. And life comes from love and sexuality.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
There are many women artists I admire. Men too of course. I love the work of Nicole Eisenman, Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois, Katherine Bradford, Cecily Brown, Nan Goldin, Keith Boadwee, Julian Schnabel, Slovak painters I “grew up with” like Juliana Mrvova and Andrej Dubravsky, and many of my art pals I follow online and feel connected with. I think all of them are very passionate and physical in their practice, and authentic as humans too.
Do you think artists these days have to be digital influencers?
I think online presence and social media can definitely help speed up the process of finding the right people or them finding you to support or advise your career. But not every artist is born to be a good marketer and the digital world can sometimes truly take the magic and romance out of the art. How nice it would be to be able to focus solely on the work and the real world...on the other hand, I received so much love online so far and it felt just as real. Being active online has its pluses and downsides, but to me it’s never a measurement of relevancy of the artist.
Do you think artists have a social or moral responsibility?
Yes and no. It’s beautiful when artists have their moral compass set up right and can influence or even change others in a positive way. On the other hand, artists are humans and often this comes with the “regular” baggage of struggles, illnesses, insecurities, which can be the reason for their work being so prolific and strong. I think artists’ main responsibility is to keep their eyes and minds wide open to what is happening in their inner and outer world and to stay true to themselves. And then, it is up to each one of us to sort out what we can or need to learn from their art.
Do you feel that you face more challenges as a woman artist?
I feel our time is now and I feel powerful as a woman and a woman artist. Albeit I do feel like there is still much to be improved on, for example, the support system while being an artist and a parent of any gender. One gallerist told me once (some time ago) that men artists are better to represent, because they don’t go through radical changes while having kids or relationships. I think that’s a really sad way to think. Opinions like this put a huge amount of pressure on those who need or want to take a break in their careers, so they can come back even stronger, wiser. Instead they are often left feeling as if they had failed or were forgotten because the support is simply not there. I know galleries have to make money to keep afloat, but standing up for the artist at all times and during the entire creative process and growth of the artist almost always pays off.
Katarina Janečková Walshe was born in 1988 in Bratislava, Slovakia. From 2009 to 2013, she pursued her education and received an MA in Painting from the Academy of Fine Art in Bratislava with her first solo show in 2009. She currently resides in Corpus Christi, Texas as well as New York. Inspired by the roles of masculinity and femininity, the wide availability of sexual content, and challenging the male gaze through sexual liberation, Janečková Walshe uses playful colors and characters to direct and discover the role of sexuality in the modern world. Cartoonish bears depict the virility of men while beautiful women in Rococo colors play and pose for the audience, allowing viewers to reflect on their own preconceived notions of gender roles and identity. No stranger to representing dichotomies in her work, Katarina flirts with a fantastical world based on her honest interpretations of the life she has experienced.
As a European in America, Janečková Walshe is also fascinated with eccentricities of what she has witnessed from American life in Southern Texas, exploring gym culture, American masculinity, and the Southwestern landscape. With the birth of her first child and residing in a new country so different from her own, Katarina tackles the beautiful and surreal moments of day-to-day life with work that reflects these new adventures. Janečková Walshe has shown internationally in five countries with a large following around Europe and North America.
To purchase Katarina's works, click here.
Photographs courtesy of Malone (Aaaron Rodriguez).