Drawing heals a dancer's spirit

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Point Park University graduate Katie Rideout has moved across state lines and artistic forms so frequently that her career path “would resemble the string game Cat’s Cradle,” she says.

As one of this year’s eight Emerging Artist Scholars, Ms. Rideout, 25, will present her work today through Sunday at the 55th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

The scholarship, introduced in 2004, is open to regional artists who have never shown their work at a major outdoor arts festival. Scholars are given supplies, guidance and space in the Artist Market.

Artist Market manager Melissa Franko says the festival also offers partial scholarships to two of the prior year’s Emerging Artists. The secondary award extends the reach of the original program by providing free booth space and encouragement to continue to create.

Ms. Rideout’s drawings are portraits based on photographs and overlaid with pastel marks.

“I’m involved in art that doesn't involve spoken language,” she says.

As a young girl, Ms. Rideout enjoyed tap dancing and coloring. She pursued classical ballet training and found a safe haven in the art studios of her Sheridan, Wyo., school when she was a teen. Faced with a list of project ideas in a studio art class, she chose the most general option and quickly became interested in faces. Her characteristic style began to develop. However, visual art was secondary to her goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

She pursued additional dance training and joined a ballet company in Milwaukee before enrolling at Point Park in 2009. While taking a break to dance with another company, she was injured. Unable to dance, she filled the void by picking up extra academic courses. A sociology professor helped the broken artist find a new voice through writing. Then, after graduating in December 2012, she experienced personal trauma in Arkansas that we would not discuss.

“My whole world was turned upside down,” she says.

Looking for a way to escape from her sorrow, she wandered through stores. An encounter with an intricately decorated elephant figure in a department store inspired her to revisit her passion for drawing. She found healing in an unfinished project she had stored away in her car. Rough charcoal outlines revealed her interpretation of a photograph she had found online.

“I drew it that afternoon and my tears stopped,” she says.

Ms. Rideout’s works are based on photographs she has found through online searches for “memorable and striking faces,” she says. She is particularly interested in images of people from underdeveloped nations.

“They’re without any masks. They’re bare.”

Each work takes Ms. Rideout more than 30 hours to complete. She works in her bedroom, leaning against her bed for support and propping her works in progress on pillows. When working on her largest drawings, she sits on a sheet in the middle of the paper. She listens to Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Chopin while she works, a reminder of her training as a classical ballerina.

Her creative process is personal, and she did not initially intend to sell her work. When she submitted her Emerging Artist application on a whim, the prospect of selling her work became real. She realized that she needed to reach out to the photographers whose images had inspired her works. She says she received supportive responses from these professionals.

“Mostly they’re touched and thankful that I ask for permission.”

When asked during an interview what she hoped viewers would take away from her work, Ms. Rideout had trouble articulating an answer. She later responded by email:

“My hand was in the creation of the work, and what one takes away is between the observer and the art. It’s not my place.”

At the festival, Ms. Rideout will sell reproductions and originals in her booth..

“That art should go out into the world,” she says.

2014 Emerging Artist Scholarship Recipients

Origami artist Alexandra Abovyan, jeweler Leah Beal, visual artist Jeff Brunner and painter Hannah Clark were featured at the festival last week.

Photographer Suzanne Andrews, mixed media artist Ron Copeland and potter Samantha Momeyer will present their work through Sunday.


Mary Hornak: mhornak@post-gazette.com

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