Kate Rusek ( she/they )

Artist Statement

I make sculpture and installation that transforms abstract patterns and surfaces into high ornament; micro-tactility with a biomimetic bent. My recent work is a large series of ritual ceramics and shamanistic totems. These new hallowed objects are solidified vessels for the ephemeral: fear, anxiety, grief, loss, joy; A freeing transformation of the psyche to move through emotional challenge in a secular realm, depositing the abstract into a physical object. 

I incorporate combustible materials like textiles, paper, and organics for evisceration to create these fired clay objects. A partnership between a mechanized kiln and a hand-built form, create a burnt offering of these documents and garments, linked to social value and an organic-like object emerges. A series of voids are left behind; memory and fleeting experience hold space through absence. I also cast reclaimed waste objects in clay and use them to build ceramic forms. I am asserting a solidity to precarious “disposable” materials of life. This act of remembering in the physical, imbued these objects with power, encouraging the mind to shed the present and imagine an unknown future. Assembled pattern and repetitious surfaces are yearns towards cohesive reconciliation; reconnection of small disparate elements into wholeness. I specifically use waste from medical treatments that call into question body autonomy in relation to toxic threats to health and fertility. Considering these nefarious materials that affect human endocrine function with curiosity is a mode of anti-disgust, a generative perspective to imagine a path through and beyond existential threats and imminent peril.

My porcelain sculptures are imprints of a waste landscape, matter out of place, into imagined marine biological forms; diatoms, phytoplankton, copepods. Connecting themes of femme reproductive bodies and life supporting systems of the micro-marine realm, I build alliances of connection with overlooked essential species and forces that support life and overlooked cultural elements like waste and garbage. These subjects, out of sight, out of mind, are vital to the  health of a human and planetary viewpoint.  

A care ethic for materials is central to my work, thinking like an ecosystem, processing materials like nutrient circulation. I am inspired by complex structures, phenomena, and interactions found in nature yet I am not trying to recreate anything from the world. Rather, I am seeking to reflect relational human experiences, somatics, and emotional excavation through these objects. In pursuit of connectivity, my work is an action to reshape ruin and peril into an act of generative future-making. Deliberate hand wrought treatments and ornamental assemblage is a practice of slowness and imprinting of human fallacy in organized patterns. A continuum of order and chaos in both form and process is ever present. This work examines climate grief, grief more broadly, and healing as a means of becoming whole. A lens of abundance is a radical act of defiance centering profound kindness, empathy, and delight amidst uncertainty.


Influenced by man-made environmental catastrophes, emotional landscapes, and ecological systems, Kate Rusek assembles highly tactile sculptures transmuting these themes into abundant maximalism. Selected exhibitions include Mizuma, Kips, and Wada, Studio Archive, Li Tang Gallery, The Lowe Art Museum, The Gallery of Visual Arts at The University of Montana, 440 Gallery, Portal Art Fair, La Bodega, and Governor’s Island Art Fair. She is a Socrates Annual Fellow for 2023 and a recipient of a Wingate Distinguished Fellowship for Innovation in Craft and. Rusek has been awarded residencies at The Archie Bray Foundation, Chulitna Lodge, Vermont Studio Center, The Hambidge Center, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, and Western Montana Creative Initiatives. Additionally, Kate Rusek is a Daytime Emmy winning designer and builder of costumes, puppets, and props and brings her process based curiosity to work with The Jim Henson Company, NBC Universal, and the broader television and film industry. Rusek lives and works on the East and West Coast, splitting her time between NYC and the PNW.