Artist Kate Huang sits next to the finished painting.
“So we’ve talked a little bit about the Red Room and what it means to you. Do you want to talk a little bit about the anniversary and the painting that you did?”
On the 6th Anniversary, I chose to be the artist that captured the event. The location that I chose [was] the second floor, the indoor space. When I was standing there I looked at the space and what was going on and I thought about what I wanted to paint. So then I came up with this idea: Why don’t I capture the movement and also the energy of the space?
I decided to pick the elements, mostly the color and also do it in a random way, to put some texture on the canvas. I started with all white, created the texture, then I chose the colors of the space. Then I started to invite the audience throughout the day to participate in coloring the painting.
The first participants were kids. I put the color in the paint and showed them how to use the roller to put the color on. The kids were so excited! While I was preparing they kept coming over to say “Can I paint now?” As they were asking, I knew that that was the right decision to invite the audience to participate. When I was ready they lined up together and each of them did one corner. They were great—five years old, four years old, twelve years old—they can all do it. People are amazing when you give them a place to shine. They kids helped me do the base color. Then, in between the shows, I started putting on more details. In the afternoon, I started to invite adults.
A participant chooses colors before having their hand painted (Photo Credit to Julia Kao)
I wanted to capture the energy and the people, to leave not footprints but handprints. I think in our life, all the people and all the events that we encounter, we leave footprints in each other’s hearts. That footprint transforms us; it stays in us. It doesn’t matter if you encounter this person for one second, one minute or one hour, more or less all these people leave footprints and they transform us. So that day, I wanted people to put their handprints to remember that experience. We transformed each other in a way and we will always have each other.
That’s what Red Room is all about, connecting people and creating and sharing moments together. So, that’s my idea of this painting.
“Had you ever done anything like that before? I feel you’ve touched on this, but what did you learn from the experience, besides the idea that we’re all leaving our marks on one another? Are there any interesting stories you have from a particular person or a moment where you realized your perspective on art had changed just by doing this or was it more a culmination of your journey?
Yes, it is definitely a culmination of my journey because I had never done interactive art before. At the beginning, as an observer to myself, I really saw that you have to let go if you want to invite people to participate in something and co-create with you. You really need to learn to let go and trust—that was the biggest lesson that day. I really wanted to do that but, in the beginning when the kids were doing it, there was a small voice in the back of my head asking “Is this okay?” Of course, I wondered if they’d go a little bit too left or too right and those voices were trying to control everything. Then, at the same time, I told myself that every time I heard that voice I would acknowledge it, smile and let go.
The more I trusted people the more I realized that there were so many times that day that people did it in a way that was beyond my expectation. After the kids took one corner, there were times that I really felt that what they did inspired me and, once they’d finished, I could paint more on the canvas. So, that moment, that learning moment lead me to allow people to do things of their free will and I actually gained more. I gained something from it too because they brought me inspiration.
What’s going to happen to the painting now?
Originally the idea was to sell it, but I just asked if Red Room would like to create the painting. It was created on the 6th anniversary and it was co-created by the people that were here together. I felt it meant more to keep it in Red Room than to sell it and I don’t see any price that could compare to the moment that we captured.
Red Room decided to keep the painting.
I actually participated in your painting and it was amazing. I thought it was so great that all of these people were gathering together and I saw people watching you. I feel like you opened a door for people to participate and feel they were part of something and part of the community.
Thank you so much for doing that and for making the audience feel more like a community member and not just an audience.
I thank Red Room and the people for being so open to that idea. I was a bit shy in the beginning as well because I didn’t know how people would feel about it, because they’d have to put paint on their hands and then wash them, but people were so supportive. So, to me, I felt like I was the one gaining a lot.
For years I worked on perfecting my skills in drawing in painting, but I think I got the largest emotional reaction from this painting. It made me laugh that I’d spent years trying to draw things I know and draw them in an exact way, but the painting I got the most compliments on is the one with no exact shape or figure. It’s just purely fun, but people just love it the most. I think perhaps they love it because they participated in it; I think that’s a very important element.
What do you have to say to people who want to do interactive art like you did? You mentioned in the beginning that you were a little shy, you weren’t sure how it would be received and I feel people always feel that way about art and approaching other people. What would you say to those people who are on the verge of deciding whether to do
You mean they have an idea to pitch?
Yeah, or if you do this participatory art and ask people to get involved with an idea? How do you overcome that shyness? Was it just gaining confidence the more people said ‘yes’? How did you push yourself to put yourself in that position?
I started with people I know. I think that’s also one of the reasons I went with kids, it’s easier. So, I think just make things easier for yourself. Go with the people you feel most comfortable with. Trust your intuition, because I think doing anything the same. We often try to plan things with our mind, but we shouldn’t ignore that very pure intuition in your heart. I think that’s the simplest guidance. Some people make you feel easy, trust that feeling and then start from there.