Artist Studio | Kathleen Wall


By Bonnie Gangelhoff

How does your environment affect your art? Having my studio in Jemez is inspiring because not only do I have my culture and family right next to me, but my materials are right here, too. My husband, Michael, is in the Air Force, and he is stationed in Albuquerque, so we live there. But if he wasn’t stationed there, I would be here 24/7. I work best on the pueblo. My aunt is here. My dad and brother pop in whenever they want to.

Where do you get your clay? It’s about a half mile down the road on the pueblo. I have a neighbor collecting it right now because I’m pregnant.

Tell me about the history of your studio. It’s a blessing to have been given the space by my grandfather. Before he died, he told me, “Now you will always have a place to make your artwork.” He built this home in the 1950s, my mother was born here, and he raised his 11 children here in a two-room adobe. No electricity, no indoor plumbing. But it was always special to be here as a child. About 15 years ago the roof was falling down, and my father helped to repair it. I’ve added a bathroom and recreated the home, putting in a fireplace because that’s where my mother was born—in front of the fireplace.

You enjoy having your children in the studio. Working with my kids (Isaiah, 6, and Tyra, 3) in the studio is not only necessary but rewarding. It’s neat to be with them and know they are safe. But it can be stressful. My son is a scientist. Lately he likes to see what melts, and he keeps putting stuff in the microwave. Recently he put a whole egg in there as an experiment and it exploded, popped open the door, and watery egg went everywhere.

Where do you find your inspiration? Absolutely everywhere. I think a lot of my culture inspires me. And the native culture in general. I’m working on a project, a solo show in January, for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. I’m making sculpture inspired by different native cultures. We are all so very different. The dances they do in Arizona are different from the dances in Jemez. I’m not only recreating art and artifacts but making sculptures of people based on live models. I’ve been to the Gila reservation and filmed basket dancers. I’m going to do native food gathering in Minnesota. I’m going to do elderly singers here at the Jemez pueblo. I’m trying to tie it all together for the show.

What music do you play in the studio? I play a lot of kids’ movies.

Who taught you to make your storytellers? I learned as a young child because my entire family made storytellers. My mother taught me how, and all of her sisters made them. A lot of pueblo families make the same thing as their family makes. But I eventually started making storytellers without babies, so my pieces have become clay figurative sculptures. But they evolved from storytellers. Things change.

How did you come to present a piece to first lady Laura Bush? The Institute of American Indian Arts approached me and some other artists. I created a storyteller for her. It was a lady with six babies around her, and she was reading a book to them because she was a librarian. My whole family went to Washington and I presented it to her at a women’s congressional luncheon in April 2006.

What do you do when you are not making art? I take care of my family.

What are your next big goals in art? I’m hoping to do a good job on the January show at the Cultural Center.

She is represented by Wrights’ Collection of Indian Art, Albuquerque, NM; Agape Southwest Pueblo Pottery, Albuquerque, NM; Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM;

Her next show is at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM, in January 2009.

Featured in November 2008