Kayt Hester is a Jersey City artist who uses a medium which may surprise you to create her amazing, one-of-a-kind pieces. Masking tape. For the past 10 years she has created fascinating works of art with what I used to use to hang band posters on my bedroom wall when I was younger.
To celebrate a decade of working with tape an exhibition ’10 Years of Tape’ is on view at the downtown Jersey City art gallery/lounge LITM. The installation will run until the end of August. Many of the pieces have sold but there are still some available. Better act fast if you wan to own a unique work of art. If you know Kayt or follow her on social media you know that along with tape, she also loves cats. Therefore it is no surprise that a percentage of proceeds will be contributed to The Companion Animal Trust, Hudson County Animal League, and Beth’s Kitten Coalition.
The works are truly amazing. On first glance you could not be faulted for thinking you are looking at a painting. It isn’t until you get up close that the genius of what Hester is doing becomes apparent. Intricately worked pieces of masking tape morphed into men and woman, deer and cats, and an onion. On one wall is a series using a nautical theme based on Moby Dick. On another there is a series of 3 pieces of a young woman standing among power lines. In yet another area is a large piece of Calamity Jane flanked by others of Annie Oakley and Suzy Elkhorn.
Hester used to work exclusively with black tape but has recently starting introducing additional colors such as red, blue and green. She is also starting to collaborate with other artists. On display are a few pieces she has done with fellow Jersey City artist CPHARRIK.
We had a chance to sit down with Kayt and talk about her career.
You attended FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and studied photography. Is that where your interest in the fine arts started?
Yes, I started off as a photographer and I had a good run with it. I had a great time in college and I was going to be a big, famous fashion photographer. I ended up getting a job in the J. Crew studio shooting still life, socks and shoes. I worked there 8 years and it was a great job but it wasn’t very exciting and it was stressful. I left there and went to Scholastic Magazine for a while and that was even more stressful. After 2 or 3 years there I quit and took some time off to reexamine what I want to do and concentrate on what was next. How to get back into fine arts somehow.
How did you end up moving to working with masking tape?
I had just moved to Jersey City and I started messing around with black darkroom tape and made a couple of images. I brought them here in a portfolio to LITM, which was brand new at the time, and wanted a photo show. Owner Jelynne Jardiniano said photos are nice but hard to sell but if you d more of the tape art I will put you in a show. I sold some pieces and it started rolling from there.
What tools do you use to create a piece?
I rip most of it by hand. Lately I have been using a knife for the first time. Such as with the telephone wires. I tried to hand tear them but it was not looking as sharp as I wanted. So I said I am going to cheat and use a knife. If I need a fine, straight detail I will use a knife now.
What is the longest time you’ve worked on a piece?
The owl took me a very long time. That was about 3 weeks. That started to get absolutely maddening. I got to a point that I don’t want to even look at it anymore. I had nightmares about it. Installations take a longer time as well because I do the art first on paper and then again at the site.
Do you ever feel like you have to defend yourself because masking tape is a relatively unknown material in art?
Yes I do. I sometimes have to show people pictures in order to get my point across. Then they get it. I actually spoke to a guy who ran a gallery and he asked what is your medium. When I said masking tape he immediately said I have zero interest in your work. I feel like it will be cheesy and corny. I showed him some stuff and he said “this is great”. However he said you have to call yourself something else such contemporary artist. I thought why lie though?
How do you like living in Jersey City?
Very much. I love it. I was born here before my family moved to Flemington. I came back here to go to school at Jersey City State. I moved to Astoria Queens for a while but moved back in early 2002. If you are involved with the community here, it comes back to you. It rewards you. Lots of good friends here, people care about each other.
What is next for you?
I have an installation coming up at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit. After that I will get a lot of commissioned work heading into the holiday season.
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