October 11 – December 3, 2017
My current work started as an archival exercise, isolating and distilling the cultural messages packed into the pages of American mail-order catalogs, with a sharp focus on popular portrayals of women. Over the past three years, I’ve created two distinct yet related series of portraits from these catalogs. My collage portraits are hand-cut from the original 1940’s catalog pages, and feature reworked fashion models as super-heroines and goddesses. My image transfer portraits incorporate elements of collage, photography, and calligraphy, and depict women from 1970’s bra ads as fierce deities, and 1940’s models as compassionate ones. As a unified body of work, this collection of contemporary portraiture combines a documentation of popular representations of women in advertising with an attempt to obliterate the collective meaning of this representation.
My academic background is in Religious Studies, with a Buddhism and Art concentration. My art reconciles this background with my interest in the effects of popular culture on feminine identity. In school, I was most influenced by my study of Zen painting and calligraphy and Japanese woodblock prints. Along with my preference for paper, the aesthetic of my portraits is largely informed by my interest in the art of Japan, including my use of negative space and the way I sign my pieces with a red ink seal. Also, the expressiveness of the eroded edges of my image transfers recalls brushstrokes in Japanese ink painting and calligraphy. Currently, as a professor of World Religions, I have a renewed interest in Hindu imagery, especially depictions of female deities. I notice parallels between the poses, gazes, and hand gestures of fashion models in advertising and deities in Buddhist and Hindu art. As a result, the way I combine religious imagery with commercial images of women, creates a pantheon of sorts. The women featured in my work strike me as familiar, but with a difference; they stand out to me because I see something out of the ordinary in them. After years of working with these catalogs, I’ve developed an emotional relationship with the models, many of whom reappear in the catalogs year after year. I see in their poses a dignity and strength that stands in sharp contrast to contemporary representations of women in advertising. My impulse is to reinterpret their roles as divine beings, thereby activating a subjectivity that the original context of these images obscures.
This transformation of image and meaning offers the viewer an opportunity for a shift in perspective. Through collage and image transfer, I layer various materials and markings, like old paper, fingerprints, and gold rings, suggesting that through a process of transformation, we may see more clearly the work of culture on women’s bodies. My work considers the influence of the exterior, projected feminine ideal on interior ideas of identity, and ways in which the values of the dominant culture are encoded in commercial images of women. I find that these models of femininity are worth another look to allow for other ways of seeing them.
Blythe King’s art reconciles her background in Religious Studies with her interest in the effects of popular culture on female identity. Featuring reworked images of fashion models from American mail-order catalogs from the 1940’s and 70’s, Blythe’s collage and image transfer portraits suggest that through a process of transformation, we may see more clearly the work of culture on women’s bodies.
In 2013, Blythe transitioned from owning and running a creative online retail business, working with vintage textiles, to a renewed dedication to her art practice, working with images of women from vintage catalogs. Since then, her work has been exhibited throughout Virginia, including the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, and nationally, including galleries and art centers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia, South Carolina, and Washington D.C.
Blythe was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and currently lives and works in Richmond, VA.
2017 New Waves 2017, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA
Other Worlds, SE Center for Photography, Greenville, SC
33rd Annual Juried Exhibit, National Collage Society, Union Street Gallery, Chicago Heights, IL
CHOP SHOP, Candela Gallery, Richmond, VA
Pieced Together, Sulphur Studios, Savannah, GA
Curriculum Lab, Studio Two Three, Richmond, VA
Work 2017, True F. Luck Gallery, Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA
2016 Solo Exhibition, How to Take a Compliment, Richmond Public Library Main Branch, Richmond, VA
J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College Faculty Art Show, Richmond, VA
Bling it Out, Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond, Richmond, VA
Flesh + Bone II, Hillyer Art Space, Washington D.C.
Wings from Chains, Athenaeum Gallery, Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA), Alexandria, VA
Poetic Logic, Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Sewickley, PA
Trending: Contemporary Art Now!, Target Gallery/Torpedo Factory, Women’s
Caucus for Art (WCA) exhibition, Alexandria, VA
Within Reach, Artspace Gallery, Richmond, VA
Work 2016, True F. Luck Gallery, Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA
2015 Refresh, Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, VA
Work 2015, True F. Luck Gallery, Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA
2014 Undiscovered, Gallery Flux, Ashland, VA
Work 2014, True F. Luck Gallery, Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA
2013 5th Annual Juried Art Show, Riverviews Artspace, Lynchburg, VA
Think Small 7, Artspace, Richmond, VA (Biennial International Miniature Invitational)
Devotion, Liz Afif Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Abstraction and Reality, Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts (FCCA), Fredericksburg, VA
All Media Show, FCCA, Fredericksburg, VA
Radius 250, Artspace, Richmond, VA
All Media Show, Art Works, Richmond, VA
2016 Second Place Award, All Media Show, Crossroads Art Center, Richmond,VA
2013 Best in Show Award, All Media Show, Art Works, Richmond, VA
Honorable Mention Award, All Media Show, FCCA, Fredericksburg, VA
2000-03 Graduate School Fellowship Award, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
1999 Outstanding Student of Art/Art History Award, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
2017 6th International Photography Annual, Manifest Gallery (forthcoming)
2016 Trending: Contemporary Art Now!, Women’s Caucus for Art, CreateSpace
Independent Publishing Platform, p. 54, 2016.
Kolaj Magazine Issue #15, Spring 2016
Alexandria Quarterly Spring 2016 Issue
The Adroit Journal Summer 2016 Issue
2013- present Art Educator, The Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Richmond, VA
2013- present Adjunct Professor, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Richmond, VA
2000-02 Graduate Teacher, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
2003 University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
M.A. Religious Studies, Buddhism and Art concentration, magna cum laude
1999 University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
B.A. Religious Studies and Studio Art, cum laude
2004-13 iSockits / blytheking.com, etsy.com/shop/blytheking
Founder of iSockits, an online retail business offering a line of fabric sleeves
made from repurposed materials and tailored to fit a range of personal electronic
devices. Featured in Macworld Magazine (January 2011), Frankie Magazine
(January 2011, August 2010), and Antigravity Magazine (May 2009)