Katie So is an illustrator and tattooer from Vancouver, BC. After graduating from graphic design school, Katie found her place in small press comics, through which she has had the opportunity to exhibit her work around the world. From there, she honed her illustration style to the recognizable brush and ink work she is known for. For the past two years, Katie has applied her illustrative style to tattooing and is currently a resident artist at Black Medicine Tattoo in Vancouver. Whatever medium she is expressing herself in, Katie's work retains a sense of dark introspection and humour.
So is one of the artists in the Fierce Tidings art exhibition at the Gene Siskel Film Center in conjunction with the FAAIM 22nd Annual Asian American Showcase which runs March 31st through April 12th, 2017. We asked her a few questions about her work and artistic practice!
-Does your identity or how you identify yourself inform your work in any way?
I’ve been told that my work involves asian subjects or themes with a European storybook application. That’s not something I consciously considered when approaching my work, but my mixed background has clearly seeped into my work whether I’m aware of it or not. I also identify as female, and definitely celebrate the feminine and female form in my work, whether portraying it in a sensual or sinister way. I think the female psyche embodies both those things, and I try and celebrate that.
-When making your work, do you have certain expectations or do you aim for a specific reaction in your audience and the viewer? (Do you care about how the message of your work is received?)
I generally have something to saywith the work I put out there, but I don’t like to display my intent directly along side it because what has personal meaning to me, might (probably does) mean something else to another person. I’ve always been fascinated and motivated by the viewers’ own interpretations. What someone takes away from my art is never incorrect, and often those revelations end up being different than what I would have thought which is so interesting. Sometimes, it takes someone else’s viewpoint to really solidify what I was trying to say with a piece, which is why art is so important to me.
-Does art serve a purpose for you outside of just beauty or aesthetics?
I’ve used art as a therapeutic process, which begins when I’m creating the piece and continues through to sharing and discussing it with my peers and my audience. I’ve learned a lot through the dialogue my art has started about racial identity and mental health issues. It’s easy to think that you’re the only one processing the complexity of these issues, but I’ve found that the artwork I’ve created has helped me and people who enjoy my art feel a little less secluded.
-How do current events affect your practice?
Current events are very overwhelming. I’m overwhelmed most of the time! If anything, I’ve felt more comfortable discussing the issues that inform my work because race inequality and the stigma of mental health aren't issues to be quiet about anymore. Hopefully, we can talk about and discuss these issues more openly.
-Do you feel you are more reactive or more reflective when you create?
Definitely reflective. I struggle with depression and personal identity and art can help to articulate the way I’m feeling, whether thats to myself or to my audience.