Page 1

Kathleen Henderson What if I Could Draw a Bird That Could Change the World?




Kathleen Henderson What if I Could Draw a Bird that Could Change the World?

September 12 – October 9, 2008


Curated by Nina Katchadourian


With a conversation between the artist and curator

When I was a little girl my parents and my brothers and sister and I would go to a restaurant called the Red Wing Diner in Massachusetts. I remember the red neon sign of a chicken whose wing would flap up and down, continuously. I thought it was so beautiful. One night a man in a checked suit and top hat came in. He came over to our table and actually pulled a rabbit out of his hat, a black and white rabbit. He let me hold it right there at the table. I looked out the window at the parking lot, which blinked red off and on from the flapping of the neon chicken, holding a black and white rabbit. That is the happiest memory of my childhood. Many years later I read about an American soldier stationed in Kuwait during the first Gulf War. He had been there several months performing his military duties as required. Then one day in the desert he came upon a small child’s shoe with the foot still in it. He never recovered.

–Kathleen Henderson


Kathleen Henderson in conversation with Nina Katchadourian June 9, 2008

The very first time I saw your work, I was struck by the way the world leaks into it. Can you talk about your working process with that in mind? I’m one of those people that has the radio on all the time, unless my family makes me shut it off. So I go in the studio and listen to the radio, listen to BBC, Pacifica Radio, NPR, and sit at the drawing table and just draw what comes from hearing those stories. There’s an incredible amount of information listening to those stories; it’s what’s happening all over the world and it’s just very powerful.


How immediate is that process? Are you drawing at the same time as the events unfold, or are you working with something that might have come from a news item hours or days ago? It’s not like I hear news about a disaster and suddenly I’m drawing that disaster or something. It seems like I have a theme in my mind or have something I’m worried about: running out of food for the world population, or peak oil, or whatever it is—you know, whatever the sort of topic is of the week, or the program. It seems like those topics keep coming back in different radio programs, in different formats. People talk about the books they’ve written, or whatever, and so I’m working on that already and thinking about imagery that I want to work with, and that just seems to be coming up in the programming. So you work with what floats to the surface as the result of repetition, news stories that are reiterated across different stations. Right, there’s top stories, and they’re all the same, and then there’s the more interesting, investigative journalist reportage of those hot issues. It’s interesting if you listen to right wing radio or left wing radio. The topics are the same but the spin is really different. Do you make a point of hearing news reported from different political viewpoints? I don’t go to the total right end of the spectrum because I can’t stand it for very long, and sometimes NPR seems kind of to the right to me, after you listen to some progressive radio. But it’s the same stories, different spin. Like last week it was Kennedy—the assassination of [Robert F.] Kennedy—and there was an interview with Terri Gross about the guy that was there at the hotel in LA when he got shot. I had the radio on downstairs and I was making lunch upstairs. I was going back and forth. Downstairs was the NPR version and upstairs was the Pacifica Radio version, about the conspiracy theories about Sirhan never having any weapons, he was on hallucinogenics; it was this totally skewed version, and then the voice of this other guy was downstairs and he was saying, you know, “I saw Sirhan.”


I love imagining that—these different parts of the house being filled with different viewpoints. Different versions of history on the same day; it’s interesting to think about history and people’s take on it and how you never know what it is. Here it is, forty years later, totally different versions of it from pretty respectable radio programs. As I’ve gotten to know them, the works have grouped themselves into categories with loose thematic nicknames. There’s “punishment,” there’s “torture,” there’s “atonement,” “complicity,” “accusation,” “patriotism.” I also have “beards,” “prisoners,” “solidarity.” All of these things point to the power dynamics between people, and I’ve been thinking about how sometimes in a drawing this plays out between just two people—like the two guys with the socks [PL. 4]. Or other times it might be what looks like a board meeting full of people who are in fact deciding the fate of a lot of other people, or it might be portions of an army that imply an even larger group battling another huge group of people. I think one of the reasons why I did that drawing of the two figures with socks is because it’s more intimate; it’s a man and a woman in their underwear. But there’s some kind of strange power dynamic going on. It’s an investigation into “the personal is political,” and I think that that, in some ways, is the crux of my work. You think of these classic atrocities: the Native American genocide, slavery, the Holocaust. You think of the huge ones and how that happened. And then you think of the smaller ones. Where does everybody fit into that? What’s the sort of day-to-day? I guess this is one way I think of the sock drawing; it’s this question as seen on a micro level. What happens in a home, what happens even between family members might end up looking like a genocide if played out at a very different scale. But in trying to understand why anybody would do what they’re doing, you have to figure, well, where did they come from? How did it happen?


PL. 4

Untitled (two figures with socks), 2006

This seems really central, the classic “Could I do that?” question. What is your feeling about that? Do you think all of us have the capacity to do truly awful things? No, I don’t. Because always, throughout history, there are always those people who say “No, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to provide sanctuary for this person, or I’d rather be shot.” Do you know the term “winter soldier”? No. It started in Vietnam—soldiers who came back from Vietnam to tell their stories, veterans who feel really badly about what happened. There was just a program recently about Baghdad and Iraq and Afghanistan. These soldiers have come back and they’re telling their stories. Here are these soldiers who’ve come back, who feel terrible about it, they feel sick about it, they’re suicidal about it, and they’re reporting their crimes to the world. It was really harrowing, and it went on forever; it was a weekend of confessionals. Well, this seems at the heart of it too, a situation where someone would say “I was there, I did those things, and it was wrong.” Politically, that rarely happens under this government. And they’re apologizing. A lot of them started their testimony with an apology to the Iraqi people and then a condemnation of the government that put them in that situation, to go into people’s homes and—it’s just terrible. There are lots of moments in the drawings where I feel aware that someone seems to be on that strange edge of slipping into a kind of behavior that they might later regret. There’s someone about to shove someone else into a hole [PL. 5]. But then I’m thinking also about the moment after, when there’s a question of culpability that someone might have to grapple with. Are there drawings that look at that moment afterwards, after the terrible deed is done?


PL. 5

Hole, 2008

PL. 6

Camo Man, 2008

Right, I know I’ve done a lot of drawings where I’ve had a row of people and everybody’s in for it and there’s one person who’s looking around like, maybe this is not a good idea, but they seem to go along with it anyway. I think that speaks to the complicity that comes with just living in America. I mean, how do you buy shoes knowing that they’re made in China with glues that give women miscarriages? It’s hard to affect change and it’s also hard to withdraw from this whole corporate oppression that happens. Maybe what I mean to say is that there are lots of moments where you see people begin to become complicit, like in the triptych [PLS. 7–9]. A moment when you follow along, or allow yourself to be led. I’m also thinking about your drawings that have more to do with religious ritual or with groups of people who kind of collectively end up involved in something that could sweep you away. You know, I did a whole series of drawings about the war, trying to understand how it happens, not just in terms of politics, or diplomacy, or history, but why it happens, and I kept coming back to religion. And then after thinking about that for a long time, it doesn’t seem that that is the root cause of these wars. It’s another symptom of human strangeness to me. And I don’t really understand that at all. I don’t really understand that element of faith that could get you to act in that way, anymore than I understand signing up for— —the army. Yeah, it’s confusing to me. And I’ve lumped them together for a long time. I think that’s what happens in these drawings. Often when there are a lot of people doing something together, their mere presence doing that thing collectively becomes this source of anxiety. But there are also a lot of views of individual anxiety—the rabbit alone with the gun [PL. 10]. There’s tons of anxiety in drawings like these, for me.


PLS. 7–9

Untitled (triptych), 2007

PL. 10

Untitled (rabbit in the woods with gun), 2006

I think the rabbit alone is sort of the militia—the “militia man” thing that’s happening on a lot of levels—and not just some sort of extremist. In the town that I live in there are several of these types of people who have food stored for a year— Could you talk a little bit about where you live? I think that’s an interesting backdrop to what you just described. Well, I live in a tiny town in Northern California that was once a logging town in the 1850s. It had those big, incredible Redwoods and the people came and in a very short time took them all away. There were beer halls and dance halls, and the railroad came out. Then they were gone and the town just kind of disappeared. Then there was the back-to-the-land movement in the ’70s, and a lot of socalled hippies moved in and built their own houses, and it has sort of stayed that way. There are no municipal services; there’s no sheriff; there’s a little school, a little post office. And I was drawn by the beauty of the town because it’s so isolated and there is this sort of sense of lawlessness and recklessness. I didn’t think of it as recklessness at the time when I moved in. I thought of it more as people sort of living together in this really great way. But there is this sense of it being pretty detached, too. I think about my visit to your studio and it’s pretty shocking to think I was only, what, half an hour from Oakland? I mean, from a big city? And I think, strangely enough, it’s because of the geography. It is in a canyon and most people don’t know its there. And all the houses are in the woods and were built by the people who live in them and are illegal. And when the sheriff is called in he doesn’t want to go because he knows that it has this reputation. And it goes both ways: recently there was a fellow who was a sort of a ne’er-do-well and he allegedly committed a hit-and-run, and the community provided refuge for him. Even though he was clearly guilty?


PL. 11

Untitled (apprehension), 2007

Yeah. The thing is, if I left my kids for the weekend there, they could call anybody in town and they would be taken care of. When I was out of town once, there is an ER nurse there who came down and took care of my kids. There is that kind of great community. And because we all know each other we also know everything else. So, why are we providing refuge for someone who’s done a hit-and-run? It’s the many sides of “community,” I guess. It’s a microcosm of the larger situation. Why didn’t we turn him out? I didn’t turn him out personally because I was afraid of him. I guess it goes back to your former question about “what would you do?” I wanted to ask you about one of my favorite drawings. It’s an image of this male, human form, but he has kind of a bag head, or perhaps an animal head [PL. 12]. And he’s leaning over from his chair with a high back to pet a pair of lambs. When I saw this I remember thinking, “I don’t know if he’s petting the lambs or if he’s molesting the lambs or if he’s about to eat the lambs.” It appeared like a very mixed set of impulses. Right, well I think the image of the lamb in Catholic imagery is about the innocence of the lamb. I had seen pictures of a pope—I forget which pope it was; it was a long time ago, in the ’20s—and he had doves. He was holding doves; he was petting lambs. I always find the sort of costuming around Catholicism and popes and bishops and cardinals really frightening. The use of innocence as propaganda for the pope I found really scary because if you look at the history of the Catholic Church, it’s not about protecting the innocents. [In this drawing] he is sort of an animal himself; there is an implicit violence here—he’s hurting himself. I see, right. And there are a lot of instances of that: there’s a rabbit grilling another one of his kind, or the other rabbit who’s got his hand in his own mouth—eating himself, self-cannibalism of a sort [PL. 13]. I feel like there’s a strong strain of rumination on the harm that we do ourselves and our self-destructive impulses.


PL. 12

Untitled (figure with two lambs), 2006

PL. 13

Rabbit Stops to Taste Himself II, 2006

PL. 14

Untitled (cannibal), 2008

I think the harm that some people in power do to people who aren’t—it’s all falling down, it’s all coming down around us, and it is a kind of cannibalism, I think, because in the end— —you go down with everyone else. I want to backtrack a moment, though. Since you brought up religious imagery, could I ask you to say a little bit about your own religious upbringing? My mother’s Irish and she was very religious—went to church every day. When I grew up, there were many Irish Catholic families who were identified by their parish. You either went to St. John’s or you went to St. Gerard’s and that was your identity as a family. On Sunday all the Irish families would file in, from the biggest to the smallest. And where is this? Massachusetts. But it doesn’t exist like that anymore. Certainly not after the various sex scandals. But interestingly enough that was it. It was Sunday; you identified as part of the parish but the rest of the week it was whatever you did. But of course there are the stories in Christianity and there’s the imagery in Christianity that’s really interesting. That pops up in the work, certainly. Yeah, I try and push it away because I feel resentful of it. But it does sort of creep in. The biblical stories are really powerful. Yeah, tried and true metaphors, I’ d say. You know, they tend to stick around. I wanted to talk about your incredible bird story. My mother was from Ireland and she came from a very small town. She didn’t speak English until she was six or seven. There’s a lot of great Irish mythology that Catholicism came and laid itself on top of, and they seem to be very happy living with both, you know, all the superstitious stuff. But one of her superstitions was that birds


meant death. We weren’t allowed to have birds in the house or images of birds. A picture of a bird on a shirt had to go on the clothesline. We made fun of her for having silly immigrant ways. One day, a bird flew into a picture window in our house and she put her hand to her head and lay down for the afternoon waiting for disaster, and we all laughed at her. That day, her brother died of an aneurism while he was on his motorcycle in Australia. So we all thought differently about it after that. It was shocking to think “could birds be this portent of death?” I don’t know if they are but she certainly thinks they are. Then I started to think, “Well, if she’s right, maybe I shouldn’t have birds in my house,” which is not the case. I have a great Sibley’s guide. I have a lot of bird books. But after she died, I sculpted a bird a day for a hundred days, which was one way to really get in the studio. I know what I’m doing in the studio: I’m going to sculpt a Crossbill, or— Did it get any less scary with each subsequent bird? It started to become like a penance, because I set out thinking, “I’m just going to do this,” and after seventy-five birds I thought, “Fuck, what am I doing. Why am I sculpting this flock of birds? Is it for my mother? Is it against my mother?” They became increasingly strange birds, just really bizarre looking creatures. But, after I did it and it was finished and I was going to ship it down to the show in LA—I was going to drive it down because I shipped all the drawings and I was going to drive all the sculptures—I started to panic that it was really bad luck to drive down Highway 5 with a hundred birds in my car. So then I was going to ship them, but then I thought, “Okay, I’m giving in to this freaky superstition. I just have to drive it down.” I remember just shaking when I was packing them, like this is— —tempting fate? I was nervous. And so halfway down we pull over, changing drivers, and smoke starts coming out from under the hood. I lifted it up and there was a nest sitting on top of my engine block starting to burn and I screamed. And I just couldn’t—I mean, here’s a nest in my en-


gine block. After that I put the bird question aside for a while. But it’s funny, I came back to the idea you’re talking about: What can art do? Why am I doing this? Can a drawing change the world? What’s the point? With that drawing [PL. 15], you also compress the situation so much that it’s not even the question of “Can art change things?” It becomes, “Can this one drawing change the world?” You’ve taken a very small case and tried to do the biggest possible thing with it. It puts the whole question under a microscope. The first time I saw that drawing I thought “Aha! She’s someone who worries about this, or wonders about this, and I wonder what she’s come out thinking.” It definitely matters, I think, to be someone who bears witness and continues to try to tell the story whether anybody’s listening or not. Do you think that is, in fact, a key thing to your practice: the idea of bearing witness? I think so. I think you listen to the radio and you hear the pile up of bodies—American soldiers and Iraqi citizens. We still are at war. The bodies are still piling up and everybody’s talking about gas prices. People aren’t really talking about the horror of it. I think part of that bird drawing is “Can you draw your way out of this?” I don’t think so. But you have to do something. If someone sees your work for the first time and a week later they think about the work they saw, what would you want the most prominent residual effect to be? What would you want someone to still be thinking about? I would hope that they would just still be thinking about it. I think that’s the idea—“Is that what’s going on?” Just to keep asking those questions. Looking at the drawings, getting them ready to bring down here, there’s that drawing of figures that are all arm-in-arm [PL. 18] and I was thinking of calling that drawing “Solidarity,” and I thought that was so cynical. Because there have been solidarity


PL. 15

What if I Could Draw a Bird that Could Change the World?, 2007

movements that have worked. I hate to think that I’m that cynical, and that you would go away feeling sort of horrible about the state of things. I mean, they’re not pretty themes: torture and cannibalism. Abuse of power. Right. However, I would hate to think that there’s no redemption whatsoever. Well, there’s humor too. Sometimes just the choice of a typeface or the way you’ve used your handwriting—something that appears in block and then in cursive, and it becomes a kind of funny and over the top “ta da!” when it appears in cursive. There are lots of things like that. Maybe this is a good entry into a discussion of the “I am a Sick Man” drawing [PL. 16], because I think there are so many ways to read that one: someone who is announcing their own illness or maybe somebody who is announcing someone else’s diagnosis of their illness. But something about the reiteration of how sick he is, on one hand, is really funny. Given the health care situation in this country right now, it could be a distress call too. Right, that drawing could be read either way. It was really hard to try and make his face so he didn’t look like this blood-thirsty ghoul—that maybe he’s sick, maybe he’s sick in the head, maybe he needs health care. Or maybe the way he lives his life is sick and that’s what’s sick about him. And the way we’re living our lives is sick. We’re sort of a diseased society and I wanted to broadcast that over and over and over again. I think it’s something that we’re doing in the media, broadcasting this kind of illness, this sickness. For him to do it on this personal level, to write, “I am a sick man, I am a very sick man, I’m a very very very sick man,” I thought that was funny. Maybe Hitler with Wings [PL. 17] is an interesting case in point here, too. The Hitler figure in that drawing is turned away from the viewer, so he’s almost a little easier to stomach because you don’t have to see that face. And he’s wearing these wings. Maybe, as with the bird, there is a feeling of this person wanting something better. Given who it is, it takes on many overtones.


PL. 16

I am a Sick Man, 2008

PL. 17

Hitler with Wings, 2006

Well, I think most people know that story that Hitler applied to art school and got denied and everybody wonders, “What would have happened if he had gotten into art school?” Do we have those two impulses: destructive and creative? What if he could have made some really banal landscapes for the rest of his life? Or— —spared us. Yeah. What if it could have gone that way? And the bird on his back is a Condor, a California Condor, which almost went extinct. So Hitler with Wings is sort of a “What if?” “What if he had gone the other way?” Although it doesn’t look too promising that he’s strapped this big, dead, almost extinct California Condor to his back. Here’s something you said when I saw you in your studio that I wrote down in my notebook: “The mystery surrounding horror.” I can’t exactly remember what the context was but the phrase stayed with me. We’ve touched on this a little bit but there are two stances I see in the work where, on the one hand, it’s being demonstrated, the horror is happening in the drawing, it’s there right now. But then, on the other hand, in a slightly more detached way, there’s also something really fascinating about watching those kinds of situations unfold. Maybe you have other thoughts about that phrase. Well, the imagery that is coming out of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is so powerful and so frightening. But it’s also the fact that that imagery is still happening. And also listening to the Winter Soldier stories—it’s just incredibly fascinating to think that this is human nature. It’s just one of those questions where you think, “How could people do this?” How can we be holding some of the people in Guantanamo Bay who are young, really young—sixteen-, seventeen-year-old kids? I just really don’t understand it, and I think that’s why I keep coming back to drawing it because it’s so horrible and it’s so powerful and it’s so strange. Who are they? What are they doing? How can they do that?


PL. 18

Solidarity, 2006

PL. 19

Untitled (taping man), 2008

So here’s another note I made: “The work sometimes seems like a rumination on human nature and we don’t come out looking so great.” I understand your comment about not wanting to appear cynical, but I think that’s a different thing actually. In some ways that’s not even the moment you’re exploring; it’s pointing to some way in which we transform through these kinds of experiences and I think that’s what I often see happening; it’s these moments where transformation is happening or there’s some shift going on. A kind of recognition of the potential, both for horror and redemption. That’s why these drawings like Rabbit Stops to Taste Himself and Rabbit Stops to Taste Himself II [PL. 13] seem like a moment of atonement in some way. Or a moment of self-punishment. This is a different case for me than the one where you see people blindly led by a bad leader, which I think is another type of drawing category. Well, thinking of Lynndie England or individuals who are led astray by these larger power structures: Should they be culpable? Yes. And here’s an instance where this figure stops to taste himself. I think, he’s taking the measure of himself. Who am I? What am I doing? Now I have a very formal question. There are a lot of situations where there’s a concentrated moment on a big, white page. Or there are lumps of figures that become one thing. I’m thinking about the group of figures bent over someone who’s lying on the ground [PL. 20]. They collectively act as an entity, they are a system, an organism. So I’m curious about those kinds of clusters and their prevalence. It’s funny, with that I often go into it wanting to go to the drawing table and make a drawing. I think, “Okay, what’s this drawing going to be about?” It’s often a figure in the middle that’s going to say what I want to say and then the narrative comes in behind it. I kept thinking of that drawing as one would look at it; what you really want to do is to swivel on top and see what’s happening. But those figures are really blocking out your view. You’re never going to find out.


PL. 20

Untitled (circle of men), 2008

PL. 21

Untitled (car with praying figures), 2007

I think I almost found myself leaning from side to side to try and see past the legs. It’s like the way you’ d behave in a crowd. You want a sightline. I think it’s interesting. I’ve been watching people look at work in museums and watching how they move around a painting. I think I told you: someone going like this— —right, the action of putting their head on their side. I thought that was really bizarre. I remember seeing, a long time ago, this Matisse show in DC. There was a painting and it had an armchair here, and you were looking at the space sort of pictorially. It’s beautiful. And then suddenly you find yourself swooped up into the air and you realize you have this bird’s eye view. There was almost a sort of vertigo, of “Whoa, I’m up here now.” Maybe, metaphorically, that’s connected here too. It’s this feeling of, “I need to understand this situation better.” Right. And to understand that moment when things go wrong. What’s that like? Or even, metaphorically speaking, perhaps it implies, “There has to be another angle on this. There has to be another way.” It’s also just sort of striking that so often you’re doing this—as we talked about—on this white page, in that space. It’s this really distinctive black oil crayon line and that’s it. That’s your tool. Has it always been that way? No, it hasn’t. I’ve always drawn, since I was a little girl. Everyday. Everyday, forever. I think about fifteen years ago I had a drawing show. I remember I was pregnant at the time, and I was doing a lot of pencil drawings with this sort of lost and found line and some oil stick, and it was very ephemeral. For me it was this really obvious sort of metaphor for the loss of instinct and intuition. I thought it was really clear. And nobody got it. Nobody had any idea that it was about the loss of instinct. I was, at first, really confused. Some people wrote me some letters saying, “What was that about?” So I thought, “OK, you want to know what it’s about? I’ll step it up a little bit. I’ll


PL. 22

Target Practice, 2007

bring in a stronger narrative and I’ll bring in a strong line. If you don’t get it, I’ll give it up.” And so there’s always that struggle for me. How much do I give up in terms of narrative, in terms of line? As we’ve talked there are many cases where you can tell me a lot about certain drawings and then there are always these ones that we hit on where you say, “I have no idea what this is about.” I don’t really believe that you have no idea what it’s about but I understand what you mean by that. And I have this experience with a lot of them too where I think, “There is something in this one and I can’t quite put my finger on it. But there is something that makes me stay here.” I think that’s the primacy of drawing. If you can pinpoint it exactly, you’re done for. Right, that’s probably true. I had a teacher once who said you can tell a story—a story usually has a beginning, a middle, and the end. You can’t tell all three parts. Right? You can tell the beginning, you can tell even one part. But if you tell all three parts— So do you think you reside in one of those three places more than the others? Or is there one part you consistently take out? I’m not sure. That’s a good question. In my process of drawing, I’ll do sometimes eighty drawings a week and save six or seven. I throw away so many and the ones that I discard are ones that tell the whole story. Sometimes it just doesn’t stick to the page for whatever reason. It’s not a so-called “good drawing.” It’s not anchored, the space isn’t right, the line is untrue, or whatever. But more often than not, it’s just too clear. Too clear. So “too clear” is often ditching criteria. I would say, in some ways, I think you inhabit the middle the most. You think so?


I do. This may be a different way of saying what I was saying earlier: I think we’re often looking at a moment where we wonder, “What might happen next?” We have some intuitive sense of how the situation got this bad or got this way, but what happens next is where the anxiety is. So if I had to pick, I would say you spend a lot of time in the middle. For me the experience of seeing your work for the first time was very strongly involved with your short artist’s statement, which is one of the most unusual artist’s statements of the hundreds and hundreds I’ve read here. It reads like a short story. There are two incredibly striking, odd, and visually very rich images—sort of scenarios—put one up against the other. I think when one has to write an artist’s statement, if you’re not a writer, it’s difficult. You have to give it up in a different way. I, like many artists, always resent that. And so I wrote the statement I was supposed to write, about metaphor and all these things, and then in the end I just didn’t feel like typing it up and sending it off. So I just did this. Usually I pass my artist’s statements by the dinner party— the ten different people who are there and they nix certain things. I didn’t pass this by anybody but my sixteen-year-old son because he typed it up for me. He said, “No, that’s good mom.” Did you know how he made sense of it? Did he say anything to you about it by way of reaction? He said it was really powerful and he said he liked it. I kind of knew he would like it, which is why he was the only one I gave it to. It’s good to have a yes man! I called my husband after it was on the website and I said, “Check it out.” He called back and said, “Thanks, that was a sucker punch; you could’ve warned me.” So I felt like, “Oh, is it a sucker punch?” I guess what I wanted to do was to do what I do in my drawings, which is provide imagery and talk about innocence and coming of age and the mystery of that.


And “the mystery surrounding the horror,” too, to get back to that phrase, because I think that sums up the second paragraph of your artist statement. It’s the absolutely bizarre and incredible circumstance of finding a shoe with a foot still in it. Amazing to imagine and awful to imagine. When I read this, I thought a lot about the two childhood moments up against one another. So you’ve got this very cozy and odd but kind of magical moment of this one kid—you—in the first paragraph and then someone very far away who’s dead and lost their foot in another moment. Who will never have those cozy moments with their family. Right. And the soldier who will never get over it. So there is trauma. And we are dealt that blow after being fed this beautiful moment—it’s swiped away pretty roughly. When I read it again and took a step back from it I also just tried to think of it in purely visual terms. There’s also something so connected about these two halves: there are things that come out of containers that they are not supposed to be in—the foot and the shoe, and the rabbit and the hat—they’re these parallel things. You should never have a child’s shoe with a foot in it. That should never happen. It is sort of magical when the rabbit does come out of the hat. It’s okay that that happens, but it is very strange when it does happen. When you were a little kid and they actually do pull a rabbit out of a hat, it is mind-blowing. And those two things are in some ways—they leave you with that imagery. Right. So it’s a world where these two things can actually happen. And happen simultaneously. Here and there. But what I wanted to do with this short story was to do exactly what I do in the drawings: to leave you with those questions and that kind of imagery. To have you walk away thinking, “Wow, why is that?” And it’s burned in your mind.


PL. 23

Admiral, 2006


PL. 1

PL. 10

Untitled (class picture), 2008

Untitled (rabbit in the woods with gun), 2006

Oil stick on paper

Oil stick on paper

18 1/4 x 23 1/2 inches

19 1/8 x 21 1/4 inches Courtesy of the artist and Rosamund Felsen

PL. 2

Gallery, Santa Monica

Last Dance, 2007 Oil stick on paper

PL. 11

19 x 25 inches

Untitled (apprehension), 2007 Oil stick on paper

PL. 3

19 x 20 inches

Beard, 2007

Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi

Oil stick on paper 19 x 25 inches

PL. 12

Untitled (figure with two lambs), 2006 PL. 4

Oil stick on paper

Untitled (two figures with socks), 2006

17 x 20 1/8 inches

Oil stick on paper

Private Collection, Beverly Hills

24 x 19 inches

Courtesy of Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa

Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi


PL. 5

PL. 13

Hole, 2008

Rabbit Stops to Taste Himself II, 2006

Oil stick on paper

Oil stick on paper

17 1/2 x 23 inches

17 x 21 inches Courtesy of the artist and Rosamund Felsen

PL. 6

Gallery, Santa Monica

Camo Man, 2008 Oil stick on paper

PL. 14

19 x 25 inches

Untitled (cannibal), 2008 Oil stick on paper

PL. 7–9

18 x 22 inches

Untitled (triptych), 2007 Oil stick on paper

PL. 15

19 x 25 inches each

What if I Could Draw a Bird that Could Change the World?, 2007 Oil stick on paper 19 x 25 inches

PL. 16

PL. 23

I am a Sick Man, 2008

Admiral, 2006

Oil stick on paper

Collage and oil stick on paper

19 x 25 inches

17 x 27 1/4 inches Courtesy of the artist and Rosamund Felsen

PL. 17

Gallery, Santa Monica

Hitler with Wings, 2006 Oil stick on paper

Untitled (devotional hands), 2007

17 x 21 inches

Oil stick on paper

Collection of Dean Valentine and

16 x 20 1/4 inches

Amy Adelson, Los Angeles PL. 18

All works courtesy of the artist unless

Solidarity, 2006

noted otherwise.

Oil stick on paper 19 1/8 x 31 inches

Photography by Peter Macchia, Grant Mudford, and Cathy Carver.

PL. 19

Untitled (taping man), 2008 Oil stick on paper 19 x 25 inches PL. 20

Untitled (circle of men), 2008 Oil stick on paper 19 x 25 inches PL. 21

Untitled (car with praying figures), 2007 Oil stick on paper 21 x 21 3/4 inches Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi PL. 22

Target Practice, 2007 Oil stick on paper 19 x 24 inches Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi



Frances Beatty Adler Co-Chairman

The Drawing Center’s Viewing Program is

Eric C. Rudin Co-Chairman

generously supported, in part, by public

Dita Amory

funds from the New York City Department

Melva Bucksbaum

of Cultural Affairs.

Suzanne Cochran

Anita F. Contini Frances Dittmer Bruce W. Ferguson Barry M. Fox

Selections Fall 2008 is made possible by

Stacey Goergen

members of the Drawing Room, a patron circle

Michael Lynne*

founded to support innovative exhibitions in

Iris Z. Marden

The Drawing Center’s project gallery:

George Negroponte

Laura Jacobs Blankfein

Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn

Devon Dikeou

Elizabeth Rohatyn*

Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis

Jane Dresner Sadaka

Jill Lear

Allen Lee Sessoms

Judith Levinson Oppenheimer

Jeanne C. Thayer*

The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation

Barbara Toll

Elizabeth Miller

Candace Worth

The Speyer Family Foundation, Inc. Louisa Stude Sarofim

Brett Littman Executive Director

Deborah F. Stiles Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee


Elizabeth Tops and Arnie Lizan John C. Whitehead Isabel Stainow Wilcox  


This is number 80 of the Drawing Papers, a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center’s exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. Jonathan T. D. Neil Executive Editor Joanna Berman Ahlberg Managing Editor Designed by Peter J. Ahlberg / AHL & COMPANY Design Interns: Rachel Matts, Sabine Dowek This book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk. It was printed by BookMobile in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

LIBR ARY OF CONGRESS CONTROL NUMBER : 2008934965 I S B N 9 7 8 - 0 - 9 4 2 3 24 - 2 6 - 6 © 2 0 0 8 T H E D R AW I N G C E N T E R A L L I M A G E S © K AT H L E E N H E N D E R S O N


35 WOOSTER STREET N E W YO R K , N Y 10 013 T 212 219 216 6 F 212 9 6 6 2 9 76 W W W . D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G


Drawing Papers 77 Frederick Kiesler: Co-Realities Drawing Papers 73 Alan Saret: Gang Drawings Drawing Papers 61 Eva Hesse: Circles & Grids Drawing Papers 57 Persistent Vestiges: Drawing from the American-Vietnam War Drawing Papers 52 Nasreen Mohamedi: Lines among Lines Drawing Papers 51 3 x Abstraction: Homage to Agnes Martin Drawing Papers 49 Richard Tuttle: Manifesto Drawing Papers 40 Mark Lombardi: Global Networks Drawing Papers 29 Ellsworth Kelly: A Conversation Drawing Papers 14 Henri Michaux: Emergences/Resurgences

T O O R D E R , A N D F O R A C O M P L E T E C ATA L O G O F PA S T E D I T I O N S , V I S I T D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G

D R AW I N G PA P E R S 8 0

I S B N 9 7 8 - 0 - 9 4 2 3 24 - 2 6 - 6

$10.00 US

Kathleen Henderson: What If I Could Draw a Bird That Could Change the World?  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers Volume 80 featuring a conversation between the artist and curator Nina Katchadourian.

Kathleen Henderson: What If I Could Draw a Bird That Could Change the World?  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers Volume 80 featuring a conversation between the artist and curator Nina Katchadourian.