This narrative approach to wall art is employed to spectacular effect by New York-based Beth Katleman. Folly ($225,000, seventh picture) is a limited‑edition handmade installation measuring 3m by 5.5m, with more than 3,000 individual pieces mounted on a painted wall. On one level, it’s a 3D homage to toile wallpaper and, at first sight, its rococo elements and frolicking figures appear playful and benign. Look closer, though, and it’s clear that they are imbued with a darker mood. “My sculptures examine the nature of consumption and desire in our time,” says Katleman, who creates her subversive scenarios from kitsch objects and vintage toys cast in porcelain.
By Colette Copeland Ceramics Art and Perception, Sept-Nov 2011
Defined as a lack of prudence and foresight, the word folly is derived from the Anglo-French word fol or fool. Another connotation of the word is an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking. A third connotation is an extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste. All three meanings are apropos for Beth Katleman’s recent installation entitled Folly at Greenwich House Pottery.
New York – typical place of capitalism, center of contemporary mainstream culture and a metropolis that assembles all popular desires. At the same time, it is the origin of fast-food culture. It brought about the excesses in consumer behavior, so many of the consumer products that pop up everywhere like mushrooms, will not escape the fate of being chucked out. The Kitsch Culture that these products represent has become the focus of New York artist Beth Katleman. She incorporates the relationship between consumer goods and society, giving those gone-to- waste products the gift of new life in her lay-back art that resembles a sense of Rococo. This art, in which she plays with the estrangements of symbols, exists on the edges of popular culture, high end.
“…American artist Beth Katleman opens the door onto a fantastic universe which, beneath its apparent naivete – exaggerated by the use of pure white, symbol of innocence – reveals a subtly subversive fairy-tale…We loll in our enchantment, a hundred leagues from reality. One thinks of Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, garden swings and a thousand and one dejeuners surl’herbe.”
By Bruce Helander The Art Economist, Volume 1, Issue 3, 2011
“Beth Katleman follows a domestic decorative tradition that began as early as 200 BC with the Chinese, who found all kinds of applications for their own undisputed invention, paper made from rice. Simple hand-painted images were glued onto walls, which caught on and spread into other civilizations that enjoyed the drafty and colorful departure from otherwise plain interiors. Louis XI of France commissioned the artist Jean Bourdichon to pain 50 rolls of paper with angels on a blue background (like Katleman’s wall) for his castle. This project inspired other well-heeled Europeans to hire artists to paint patterns on paper. By the 1920s, futurist and cubist designs arrived on the market, making both modern and traditional designs available. Wallpaper and linoleum were the inspiration for the pattern and decoration movement of the 1970s and 80s, headed by Robert B. Zakanitch, Robert Kushner, Valerie Jaudon and Joyce Kozloff. In the last decade, there have been many artists who were fascinated with their own twist on wallpaper designs, including Robert Gober’s strangely irreverent repeat image of a Deep South lynching, titled Hanging Man/Sleeping Man.