I am a story being told. I create figurative cut-outs, installations, and paintings to imaginatively process issues of liberation, repression, and migration.
Since the beginning of my art-making career, the female form has been my starting point. She embodies the history, chaos, and transformative potential that drives me. Using my own movements or poses that resonate with me, I re-work figurative drawings until I find shapes that are dynamic. These figurative shapes are severed, then layered with dense patterns and emotive color. I make patterns out of map-lines, writings, camouflage, and plant forms.
A leg might become a mass of collaged-together bits of drawing. A face might become a sharp flower; a torso could be an ocean made of molded canvas. Disparate parts fit, sometimes held together delicately by threads, because all these pieces articulate the cycles of violence and renewal we go through.
In my installations, the figurative cut-outs come alive in space. I paint and write on the walls around them and hang translucent fabric from the ceiling to build sensual-psychological environments. The figures are not connected to a geographical or physical setting, but exist in a liminal emotional space that speaks to loss and regeneration.
I realize that a story is not created alone. I also create social sculptures, where a piece grows out of people’s guided participation. The Khayamiyya Monument (2016) was my most in-depth exploration of this process. I designed activities to elicit intimate writings from women of the Afro and Arab diaspora, around the themes of migration, violent upheaval, and resilience. Female U.S. veterans who had fought in Iraq responded to those writings with their own. As I traced the women’s writings in both Arabic and English onto canvas, I came closer to embodying these stories that shape our current moment in post-9/11 America. The monument also activated a community open mic, where im/migrant women spoke their own stories and poems in public.
Through developing a personal symbolic language, I discover the multilayered beauty of women who have lived transcontinental migrations and exile. My works become a place for me to challenge the silencing of stories that do not fit today’s dominant narrative of national identity.
Katherine Toukhy is a visual artist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She makes figurative cut-outs, installations, paintings, and social sculptures that are explorations of cyclical violence and transformation. Her position as a U.S.-born Egyptian woman of the Coptic diaspora shapes the work she does.
Select shows include: “Incision” at the Project For Empty Space, NJ (2018); “Truth” at BRIC, Brooklyn (2017); “Shehrezade’s Gift” at the Center for Book Arts, NY (2016); “Creative Dissent” at Alwan for the Arts, NY (2016); and “Artificial Romance” a solo show at Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn (2014). She has also presented her work at the Arab American National Museum and Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Michigan among others.
In 2017-2018, she was an artist-in-residence at BRIC, The Project for Empty Space, and a Pollack-Krasner fellow at Vermont Studio Center. She was also accepted to the Bronx Museum AIM cohort. In 2017, Toukhy was invited by the Laundromat Project to co-present on the theme of “Sanctuary” at Lincoln Center’s Rubenstein Auditorium for her work on “The Khayamiya Monument” an alternate war monument of the herstories of African and Arab women im/migrants and female U.S. veterans. In 2016, she was a fourth-time recipient of Brooklyn Arts Council grants. Her work has been supported by the Rema Hort Mann Foundation ACE Grant and the Puffin Foundation as well. Toukhy’s works are included in private collections in Brooklyn, Cairo, and the Yuko Nii Permanent Collection of the Williamsburg Art and Historical Society.