To Kat Kinnick, feminine rage is “The strength that stands before harm and injustice and says ‘No more:’ No more poor decision making, no more destructive, catastrophic, trauma inflicting, warmongering, violating actions.”Her upcoming show, 


A Benevolent Force, explores this concept through a body of paintings on paper and panel. She poses the question, “What arises to meet the people in power who violate our collective safety by causing climate change, genocide and war?” And her answers take the forms of creatures who, to her, illustrate that force: snarling black wolves, wise animals and dark and devilish gods which she calls “faces of the natural feminine that step in to block the blow of the perpetrator."


Kinnick’s aesthetic and narrative starting point for the show was Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 film, Princess Mononoke. In the film, the harmony that humans, animals and gods have enjoyed is disintegrating. Kinnick recalls an image from the movie that shows Princess Mononoke riding on a huge, fierce wolf, wearing a “sharp, determined look of feminine rage.” The idea speaks to our present position in the face of mounting existential threats, Kinnick says:  In this time there is so much heaviness and bleakness in the world. We’re confronted daily with the awful reality of the continually unfolding climate crisis, with mass ecological and cultural extinctions, with genocide funded by our government, with the prospects that AI may multiply our already unbearable disempowerment and alienation, with capitalism that entrusts the 1% with our most important decisions, with patriarchy that condones men’s violation of boundaries and consent, with white supremacy that supports a rising tide of fascism that is celebrated instead of criminalized… this information age which offered so much possibility and promise in the beginning is becoming a full-fledged dystopia before our eyes.


Kinnick confronts this darkness with characteristic tenderness and acute observation, but also a gathering strength. The animals she depicts are vulnerable, but still a force of reckoning: “Some of them are there and not there at the same time, half-disappearing, with one foot in the spirit realm of extinction—that kind of presence is an omen, a language of its own, that can counsel us for our own survival,” Kinnick says. She’s drawn to the imagery of folk art and myth, both ancient and contemporary, to channel the wildness she embraces. “In each generation our stories and art create narratives that make that force more relatable, and in the process, channel its wild flow into our human lives,” Kinnick says. Through this work, artists and storytellers develop avenues of connection that have the power to unite people in community with one another.  Among the show’s paintings will be Kinnick’s illustrations of select folk tales about bees, which she created as a collaboration with German writer Iris de Maaß, who has been collecting these tales for years. “I really connected with the stories,” Kinnick says. “I love the format of children’s book illustration and this bee series is a great opportunity for me to process some of my favorite styles through my own voice.”

Kinnick drew on a breadth of additional cultural references in creating the show, including the movie Mulan, images of Flamenco dancers “who carry strength and simultaneous suffering in their gestures,” the Mountain Goats album Bleed Out, which reminds Kinnick of “A hidden, underestimated force to be reckoned with,” the power and adrenaline of heavy metal, Guillermo Del Toro’s creatures in Pan’s Labyrinth and Pinnochio, and Balkan choral music, among others. To Kinnick, these represent a sense of complex, nuanced power that transcends binaries of good and evil. “Overall,” she says, “this show for me is a reflection of empathy and reverent rebelliousness—of values that I want to see leading us into the future.” A Benevolent Force will open at Hecho a Mano on Friday, May 3 and will be on view until June 3.




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