Graduate Artist Statement

Austin Cathey is a North Carolina artist who holds and MFA in printmaking/painting from Miami University of Ohio and a BFA in drawing from UNC Asheville.  He currently works out of Carrboro, Durham, Raleigh and is in the process of updating this bio.

Re-collection Immemorial is an abstract series that is driven by the foundational concept, as well as the research behind it.  It was also the name of my senior solo exhibition upon graduating from UNC Asheville. In these drawings, I use ink and water as a metaphor for time, experience, and memory.  With the evaporation of water and the fading of ink to create non-representational forms, the imagery references the fragile and unreliable nature of human memory.  I also utilize layers, both collaged and with ink, to allude to the ever-growing amount of information that even the average American compiles on a daily basis.  The driving force behind this concept arose from my desire to come to terms with my own fragmented memory, which is mostly just absent. As such the basis of Re-collection Immemorial is rooted in personal development.  In addition to using art as a means of healing, I also used this series as a means of pushing my artistic limits and exploring my role as an artist. 

Prior to attending UNCA, my art education had only exposed me to the idea that fine art had to be photo-realistic.  However, by using time, gravity, and chance, I used these drawings to explore my options as a contemporary artist.  In this way, I was greatly inspired by Jackson Pollock, who allowed his paintings to come to life in an organic and spontaneous way.  Visually this series was also inspired by contemporary abstract artist such as Seana Reilly and Val Britton.   Since Re-collection Immemorial doesn’t contain much representational imagery, the expressive forms convey more questions than answers.  My drawings give the viewer a quiet opportunity to have an inner conversation with the work, inspiring reflection and contemplation.  I am most interested in exploring spirituality and what it means to be a part of the human experience.

Undergrad Artist Statement


Mapping the Storm deals with the sensation of being lost, often within a turbulent environment, as I work through the storm of upheaval that encompasses myself, as well as larger social, political, and environmental worlds. Within these large-scale works, I think of myself as a cartographer, utilizing different languages of mapping to construct paintings and drawings that simultaneously create and navigate environments in a state of unrest. Current work often adopts a satellite perspective of these storms, not only as a mapping mechanism, but also to reflect on how very small we are from larger - and more spiritual - perspectives. Influences for these works range from topography to navigational charts, from the dirt beneath your feet to a nebula in the cosmos. While simultaneously embracing and questioning my heritage of Abstract Expressionism, Romanticism, and American landscape, I construct these conceptual terrains from the mental energy that I bring to the work in the studio. I also see my work in communication with the artistic legacy of seeking the sublime, of using visual experience as a vehicle to explore the vast forces that expand beyond our understanding.

Art is an essential aspect of trying to understand the human condition and our place in a chaotic and possibly infinite expanse, and in response my work questions viewers’ relationship to that experience, establishing an abstract visual space for reflection and contemplation. On many levels, my art is personal and intuitive, full of experimentation, and a constant interest in materiality. Works within this body explore other non-traditional materials such as dirt, rock salt, grass/straw, plastic, string, found/reclaimed objects, spackle, and plaster. Exploring and developing different processes with these materials keeps me constantly challenged by my work, and at times my studio can seem more like an alchemist lab. These works on paper are soft-edged and atmospheric due to the use of fluid mediums, such as inkwash, most often left to pool and evaporate many times over. The traces left behind serve not only as a metaphor for our temporal metaphysical nature, but also to reference our constant struggle between control and uncontrollability

Art portfolio

Austin Cathey