Kate Holcomb Hale

lean, STAND, Collapse

lean, STAND, Collpase exhibition

at the Danforth Museum of Art



Over the past five years I lost my mother, my father and my eldest brother in quick succession. Each loss underscored the caregiving required of me as a daughter, sister, caregiver and parent. I was tasked to execute wishes for those who had passed. I provided care for those who were left in the wake of each loss. I emptied homes, apartments and saw that objects and money were distributed properly. With each loss I became more efficient, skilled in the aftermath, more competent and responsible. I learned I can take on a lot. I also had the benefit of privilege, a supportive partner and enough money to ease the load at times. This is another layer of the invisible labor of families which is often performed by women and mothers. There’s a prevailing assumption that somehow it will all get done. And yet it’s rarely acknowledged as labor and it’s seldom compensated properly if at all. I have acutely felt the impact and responsibility of this invisible labor over these past 5 years. For me it has been closely intertwined with grief. With each loss, I had formidable tasks to execute that were laden with expectations, guilt and deep love because they carried the added weight of honoring each deceased member of my family.  

The dog listens better than you (pictured)

cotton, acrylic paint, water-soluble graphite, poly-fill, wood dowels


In case you were wondering

yes, I’m still a potato

cotton, acrylic paint, insulation foam, poly-fil


If something inflatable came in a hole 

what would it look like

cotton, acrylic paint, insulation foam, poly-fil


This intense period has also made apparent that the worlds of caregiver and artist can overlap and coexist. One’s art practice is not only a practice of creating works of art but also a practice of performing care. We perform self-care when we create the time and space for making art to process and unburden ourselves of our experiences through the act of making. The work can provide a release valve for the mental load of caregiving or life in general. We perform care for our loved ones by interweaving our intellectual and artistic minds into the everyday interactions of our families. This can look like culling titles from funny exchanges with our kids, moving the making onto the kitchen table to be nearby or eliciting assistance from a child to film a performative act. Boundaries dissolve. Care is evident. Finally, we perform care for a broader audience when we create work that can validate other people’s experiences as mothers, parents and caregivers and tap into the empathic potential of each work. I’ve called my works shock absorbers. They initially acted as shock absorbers for me after intense periods of caregiving and loss. My hope is that they can be shock absorbers for others too. This feels like a radical act of care.

lean, STAND, Collapse

single channel video, 6 min

featuring Nora Stephens + MacKenzie LeTorré

music by Derek Nievergelt


Kate Holcomb Hale, Nora Stephens and MacKenzie LeTorre bring their personal experiences to explore themes of invisible labor, including physical and emotional labor, specifically within traditional and non-traditional family structures. This multi-media project which centers around the dining table as surrogate/placeholder for the body and the corporeal experience dissolves boundaries between art and life, the domestic sphere and the gallery. Live performance, dance, video, stop-motion animation and soft sculpture are interwoven to provoke questions around invisibility, presence and ephemerality. Shared movements that imitate and activate ‘kitchen table’ sculptures draw attention to the privilege and burden of care, the residue of abuse/trauma within domestic situations, grief and methods of healing. The work aims to create an immersive experience that facilitates connection and ultimately generates a network of care through empathetic engagements. The interactions between the hybrid forms will vary in each performance creating multiple access points for viewers to engage while simultaneously dismantling hierarchical structures around making.

enlighten (lamp)

paper clay, chalk pastel, acrylic paint, electrical cord