When I think about Kati Gegenheimer’s work, I think about time, and I think about my friends.
I also think about handfuls of glistening jewels, about orchestral swells and technicolor sunsets, about melodrama and rooms of secret treasure, about dayglow candy from another dimension. I think about golden flickering candlelight in a 1950s Disney cartoon burning out of the darkness. I think about the moment between confetti exploding into the air and when it begins to descend, stretched out into infinity. I think about what it means to give someone something beautiful.
Kati’s paintings often give me the dizzying sensation of shifting scales, of seeing something that’s simultaneously microscopic and colossal. Are these mammoth bioluminescent sea creatures communing in the moonlight on some distant planet, or are they amoebas dancing in my bloodstream? It’s both, of course. It’s DNA strands and galaxies, it’s ordering the chaos of life into a beautiful arrangement, a bouquet, for you.
In her show Stars Align at Gross McCleaf, there are keys and clocks and swans and gears and flowers and light in these paintings, and more than anything, love. These symbols form a kind of Tarot. They remind me of being twelve and seeing The Craft and buying that classic deck at the head shop in the mall and thinking—knowing—that I was tapped into the cosmic energies of the universe. My friends and I would spend hushed, ecstatic Friday nights in candlelit bedrooms conjuring the unknowable out of thin air, foretelling entire lifetimes for each other like it was nothing, making sense of lives we were just beginning to live, together.
This idea of togetherness, of friendship as a tool to understand the incomprehensible, is an essential part of these paintings. Kati has said they’re a record of memory, proof of ever having existed at all. Mirror (into the blue again) depicts a mirror framed by a silvery swan, a swirl of blues enveloping the glass. Standing in front of the painting, it seems at first like nothing is being reflected at all, but then you realize that it’s you, yourself, standing in front of this mesmerizing mirror. Like the tarot, these paintings act as mystic vessels, waiting to be filled with whatever is precious and sacred to you. They’re beautiful adornments given a purpose, hung upon the endless flow of time to show that we were here.
And speaking of time, Kati’s painting Time Stopped (When You Entered The Room) is the center of it all for me. An act of magic, here is a clock brought to life but forever frozen on the canvas. After the last year we’ve all miraculously lived through, what is more beautiful and devastating than stopping time in its tracks, for you and everyone you love, forever and ever?
When I think about Kati’s work, I think about time, and I think about my friends.
Michael, a photographer, and Kati, a painter, met while pursuing their MFAs at Yale School of Art in 2011. Sam Messer, then associate dean at the school, organized a work exchange among first year students across all disciplines, random in nature in the basement printshop. As luck would have it, we both picked each other’s pieces without knowing it. This is where our paths originally crossed, by a stroke of luck and a lottery of friendship through art-making and exchange. Stars align.