ART REVIEW: Opulent artifacts charm viewers

Kate Budd Picture 1

Art Review by Christina Day

When I see Kate’s work, I am always struck by the secret surety that she didn’t actually craft these incredible artifacts.  They’re so complete, so whole, that these exquisite little objects had to have been grown. They suggest the becoming of something huge, every bit as convincingly as an actual organism, that they must be seeds, fruit fallen off some incomprehensible tree.  I imagine her finding a portal to an alien forest, and before each show traveling there, filling huge pockets with various seed pods and amazing specimens, then returning to Earth to display her finds.  If she accidentally drops one on our soil upon returning, the alien fauna would certainly overtake our ecosystem.

Kate Budd
Of course, this is not the case.  Feeling this way is just a validation of the countless hours she spends crafting her sculptures, her eye for detail, and her otherworldly vision.  Her works are small wax and bronze creations, patterned after ritual artifacts and the improbable organic forms actually found on our planet.  The fact that they aren’t grown in any way only makes these talismans more remarkable.

Their super smooth or finely scored waxy surfaces are often brushed with graphite to appear metallic while being made of wax, but then some are actually bronze casts, adding to the mystery of the collection as a whole.  It is a challenge to distinguish between actual metal and the appearance of it without the help of the didactics.

More impossible than their being crafted is their setting, the gallery space, and the obvious directive that this space implies.  How are you supposed to look at these exquisite entities and not touch them?  A series of shiny little bumps call out like Braille and it’s hard to not believe that there are messages on that surface that require reading with one’s fingertips. Kate herself admits she forgets the agony she inflicts on her viewers who don’t get to touch the tiny sculptures, since her process requires her to hold them constantly while creating and embellishing them.  That closeness and physical connection each object has to the artist shows through: like a ritual artifact, each piece shines as though it’s reached self actualization through caresses.

Kate Budd
The smallness, the detail, and the materials of Kate’s work also readily suggest ideas of luxury; you relate to them physically as you would any precious object or gemstone.  They are the terrific charms of a Pandora bracelet stolen from the set of Prometheus, or the crown jewels of Atlantis.  You want to grab a velvet bag and collect them all.  Instead, you can lean in close to mentally map each bump and fold, contemplating each as a marvelous example of art-as-object, and/or snap a covert photo for later analysis.

 open-bottomed basket, 2014 wax, graphite powder, 1.5 x 1.75 x 1 in

open-bottomed basket, 2014
wax, graphite powder, 1.5 x 1.75 x 1 in

This piece is particularly remarkable because of its openness. I’d be afraid to hold it, even if I could, for fear of crushing it, a sentiment that really reinforces the idea of these objects as artifacts.  It’s like the skeletal structure of a decaying leaf, when what was once the strongest element of something is all that remains, and you’re aware that a once resilient thing has become fragile.

dark ribbon, 2014 (in photo: top, middle) wax, graphite powder, 1 x 1.25 x 3 in

dark ribbon, 2014 (in photo: top, middle)
wax, graphite powder, 1 x 1.25 x 3 in

Meanwhile, dark ribbon is the opposite of open-bottomed basket, seeming as it does like it would actually spring to life if you blink.  It’s got a youth to it that is hearty and vibrant, though still fragile in its way.

dipper, 2014 bronze, 1.5 x 1 x 3 in

dipper, 2014, bronze, 1.5 x 1 x 3 in

The abundance of little bumps around the potential handle indicates a longing to be held, allowing for a precious ceremonial liquid to be scooped up and consumed.

Kate Budd
“use unknown, possibly ritual” is worth the trip up to Cleveland, even for those unaccustomed to the trek.  (Those already in Cleveland certainly have no excuse!) William Busta’s gallery is comprised of half a dozen rooms; and feels like a gallery becoming the wing of a contemporary museum.  On any given weekend, his space alone has 3 or 4 shows going on simultaneously.  On view now along with Kate’s work are bright and choppy paintings by Paul Yanko, as well as very subtle dyed silk pieces by Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, both bodies of work are certainly worth seeing.  However, Kate’s work, like any crown jewel, is worth the trip alone.

Kate Budd
“use unknown, possibly ritual” featuring the sculptures of Kate Budd is running now through November 15th at William Busta Gallery, 2731 Prospect Ave, Cleveland.  Kate will also be in the gallery Saturday October 25th from 2-4 pm.

Christina Day is a co-owner/director/curator at FORUM artspace in the 78th Street Studios complex in Cleveland, as well as a member of the SPACES board.  She received her BFA in Printmaking from the Myers School of Art in 2012. You can reach her at



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