Kate Holcomb Hale

lean, STAND, COLlapse

The dog listens better than you

cotton, acrylic paint, poly fil, cardboard, wood

48 x 102 x 96 inches (approximately), 2023

solo exhibition at The Danforth Art Museum



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.  

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.


Leading up to the Danforth exhibition Kate collaborated with performers Nora Stephens and MacKenzie LeTorré for over a year. Their multi-disciplinary collaboration centered around the dining table as surrogate/placeholder for the body and the corporeal experience. In their project live performance, dance, video, stop-motion animation and soft sculpture interweave to provoke questions around invisibility, presence and ephemerality. This boundary blurring collaboration with/in Kate’s studio, home and the museum space magnified the weight of invisible labor on individuals and families while reminding us that through care we can help support/heal one another.

lean, STAND, Collapse

single channel video, 6 min

featuring Nora Stephens + MacKenzie LeTorré

music by Derek Nievergelt

Kate Holcomb Hale uses painting, sculpture, installation, and video to explore how an artist develops a unique visual voice in the face of adversity and transforms personal spaces into sites for creativity. This exhibition is an inviting space, perhaps because it is familiar.  Through hand-sewn soft sculptures and paper clay impressions of object fragments such as cabinets, doors and light switches, Hale’s installation reveals itself to be a domestic space, albeit one in a disordered state.  During the global pandemic, home was where the artist worked, and the process of creating art amidst everything else happening within the domestic sphere became a chaotic yet vital lifeline.

Since COVID, many of us have a clearer understanding of what it feels like to have the work-life-home-school-family balance completely upended, and many were already familiar with the intensity of balancing multiple roles.  Care work is essential and time-consuming, yet it is often unseen and undervalued labor. Hale calls her soft sculptures “shock absorbers,” as they functioned as a “soft landing” for her after a period of intense caregiving for her family during the pandemic.  Hale’s act of unburdening stress, anxiety, and grief through creating has resulted in brightly animated yet radically disrupted domestic space – tables slump and slouch while pieces of the home climb the walls and spill onto the floor.  Hale’s work is dynamic and immersive, and her pieces both consider the burden and privilege that comes with caregiving. This exhibition acknowledges the impact the past few years have had on all of us and provides space that encourages empathy and connection – between the artist, the subject and the viewer.  

-Jessica Roscio, curator The Danforth Art Museum

enlighten (lamp)

paper clay, chalk pastel, 

acrylic paint, electrical cord



live performance by Nora Stephens + MacKenzie LeTorré

January 14, 2024


paper clay


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