Born in Rochester NY and Prague Czechoslovakia the KaKeART partnership began in graduate school at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where Tatana Kellner and Ann Kalmbach met in the printmaking studio as exiles from the painting department. After graduate school, they arrived in Rosendale to help form the Women’s Studio Workshop, a not for profit artists’ workspace in 1974.
Being interested in making our art more accessible to the public, we began publishing artists’ books in 1979, beginning with Scene Around Rosendale , a series of postcards of historic, contemporary and generic pastoral images readily found in local shops.
We re-visited this theme again in 2001 and 2010, being interested in how our town has changed, while maintaing it’s essential character, as a town that grew up around cement mining industry.
Our collaboration has been pretty consistent over the decades. The impetus can be anything, a personal experience My Nine Migraine Cures, chance encounter, an article read, or a word spoken.
Your Co-Worker Could be A Space Alien was based on a tabloid article given to us by a friend. Since then we have have worked together on 16 artists’ books and numerous installation projects.
Because Tatana immigrated to USA from Prague, some of the subtleties of language have fascinated her, which lead to Pistol/Pistil: Botanical Ballistics. We printed the book while being artists-in-residence at the University of Southern Maine. The students were encouraged to assist and observe our process of negotiating the linguistic terms, printing sequences, and color choices.
Collaboration is a fascinating, rewarding and sometimes frustrating process, but in the end you learn a lot about yourself and your collaborator.
Around the same time as Pistol/Pistil, the hotel in our neighborhood opened a police shooting range. We collected the abandoned targets and gathered them into a book Shoot to Kill, where each target is paired with a word. The entire text: DID YOU EVER WONDER WHY POLICE TARGETS ARE TORSOS? is subtitled SHOOT TO KILL.
Here we debated at length if to include the word black, in the end deciding not to, since one of the targets we found was not a silhouette, but a fully clothed figure.
In the summer of 2015, in the context of ‘black lives matter’ movement, we installed the targets on a rail trail, as part of a public art festival.
Our latest collaboration was The Golden Rule, an installation and an artist’s book. Both of these are are meditations on the unending quest to fulfill the golden rule. We lettered the text from 13 different religions on the rail trail. As the trail was biked, ran or walked on, the text slowly disappeared. In the book, the reader is confronted with a blind embossing of the text in one of the original languages, followed by handwritten, slowly dissolving translation. Only after leafing through to the next page is one able to read the tenet. This is contrasted with newspaper clippings of petty crime and punishment.
Ann Kalmbach and Tatana Kellner collaborate as KaKeART to produce humorous and politically charged works ranging from postcards, artists’ books and public interventions. They are also co-founders of Women’s Studio Workshop.
Stop by Main Street Arts to see their artwork in our current exhibition, Ink and Paper (runs through Friday, March 25). Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Nick Marshall.