Kayla Howie

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition


My work explores the role of the human body in our relationships with mortality. “Unseeing” consists of a collection of paintings of fragile expanses of skin and ruptures in the flesh alongside portraits, both partial and whole. I utilize this subject matter to create a conversation between the viewer and the paintings, inviting people to consider their own relationships with death through emphasizing the intricacy and fragility of the human body.

Through the use of a self-portrait, I insert myself into the narrative of this body of work, linking the other paintings back to me. This hints at the plea for connection existing in this space, a plea for the viewer to enter into this conversation with me. Despite the deeply personal and intimate nature of many of these works, being of my own body, “Unseeing” is not merely a documenting of my body and its fragility but rather of the body as a site of mortality. I want to invite the viewer in by encouraging them to relate the paintings back to their own bodies, to notice their veins, the blush of blood seen under skin or abrasions on the surface.

In order to bring the viewer into this space of discomfort I utilize the complexities around seeing and being seen. The act of seeing is not a one-way experience but rather an interaction between the viewer and an object. This means that, in many ways, my paintings look back at the viewer, challenging them and altering the viewer in the same way that the viewer’s experiences alter the meaning of the paintings. Through my paintings I attempt to simultaneously pull the viewer into this conversation and push them out, creating a constant tension between being the two. Some of the works are more confrontational in nature whereas others are passive, allowing a moment of stillness in amongst such a difficult internal conversation. All of the portraits are turned away from the viewer, shutting them out. This could be interpreted as either a turning away from the viewer or as a turning towards something else, perhaps it is both. This push and pull mirrors the ways in which a person interacts with ideas of mortality.

The body is a space of abjection and discomfort, paintings of wounds and bruises bring forth these notions while the unmarred skin highlights the fragility of the skin and how easily it can be ruptured. As humans we often avoid discussions of death, afraid of the lack of control it signifies and the instability of life. “Unseeing” seeks to stimulate a conversation around death and encourage people to consider it personally.