15 Mar Illuminations: Artist spotlights
Kathy Burk, of Modern Relics, creates architectural elements from glass and steel. Using her interior design background, she developed a series of three signature lighting pieces that include kiln-formed glass inspired by Montana’s geology and natural environment.
Each one of the three series tells a story: The Torch series looks at how lights were used before electricity; the Geared-up series repurposes items from the past and references the shape of candlesticks; and the Timeless series speaks to contemporary life with new ways of examining the role light plays in a modern lifestyle.
“I do a lot of commission work,” Burk says. “My chandeliers are designed individually for each person. I find out about their favorite activities and make the piece work in their space.”
For example, while working with an avid kayaker, Burk decided she wanted to portray movement as well as texture to evoke a river current. “I love to play with motion, texture and depth using vibrant colors, usually based on the natural environment,” she says. “With those types of pieces I hope to bring back a particular memory or experience.”
Burk is intrigued by the look and the properties inherent in the minerals in glass. Using transparent and opaque types of glass, she gets the static panels to convey a sense of movement as well as texture. But above all it’s nature that calls to her, the changing seasons and the light.
“We have a place where we like to go, away from the cell phones and computers. And when I get back, I’m inspired by the way time slows down,” she says. “I would hope that anyone who purchases the artwork slows down and has that pause.”
She works with steel as a vehicle to hold the kiln-formed glass she creates. Keeping the steel elements as simple as possible, she highlights the glass as the prominent feature. Recently, she began working with an engineer who designed different sorts of LED lights to work with her unique pieces.
“There’s the option of setting the light to mimic a trickle — reminiscent of a river — or to flicker like fire, as well as the option of keeping it on bright or dim,” Burk says. “I had a client who had a bright space but wanted motion, and that’s what we came up with. It’s very interactive, but it still creates a subtle ambience.”
Although Burk’s work is best expressed as personal commissioned pieces, she shows her work in various galleries across Montana, including the Toucan Gallery in Billings; Modern Relics in Bozeman; Tripp Studio in Bozeman; Latigo and Lace in Augusta; Art Focus in Hamilton; and during the Great Western Living and Design Show in Great Falls.
She also participates in an artist residency in Yellowstone National Park in May, when the park opens, and in September, at the end of the season. During that time, her work is available in some of the park’s gift shops.