Art by Tatiana Rathke
Tatiana Rathke’s work in progress for “ALT”

Revelry Boutique Gallery is a great place to see a wide variety of artists working in diverse mediums. Group shows like “Cuteopia” and “The Future is Unwritten” have emerged as one of the best ways to see some of the greatest new and established artists in Louisville. 

On Saturday, “ALT,” another group show at Revelry, is getting its chance to become of fixture of the art scene. “ALT” challenges local artists to work with alternative materials and explore outside the strictures of their medium. Insider Louisville spoke with two of the exhibition’s artists — Tatiana Rathke and Monica Stewart — to find out what strange materials they’ve been digging into for this show.

Stewart has been featured by Insider before, known for elaborate paper cuts that depict fairy-tale images that challenge and examine gender interactions in classic stories. She has been deeply immersed in her graduate degree program at UofL’s Hite Art Institute, which she recently finished, and just as she came up for air, she began to conceptualize her piece for “ALT.”

“As I was trying to lay out the project, I was beginning to have more space in my head to be overwhelmed by the atrocities of our current government … and all of these things I had been (ignoring) while I was totally engrossed in school,” says Stewart

Art by Monica Stewart
“How Do I Turn My Tears Into Blades” by Monica Stewart

The alternative material she planned to use was a byproduct of her normal art-making practice. 

“As someone who works a lot with cut paper and uses X-Acto knives, once the blades are dull, they are no longer usable. But they are also not the easiest things to recycle. So I tend to hoard them,” she says. 

The razor blades felt, to Stewart, like a way to discuss her feelings and frustrations. 

“I found a handkerchief, and I thought, that’s something we associate with mourning. It became a way to think about — in terms of imagery — ‘How do I turn my tears into blades?’ ” 

Playing off her graduate thesis’ focus on needlepoint, Stewart created a strongly metaphorical image with conceptual elements directly linked to her alternative material.

The finished piece is a handkerchief bearing a large, bright green eye dropping embroidered tears that seem to transmute into razor blades as they travel down the piece of thin white linen.

On the flip side, Tatiana Rathke works in multiple mediums as a photographer and installation artist. She already was considering an adventure in a different medium when she got the opportunity to put work in the exhibit.

“I’ve really wanted to work with found objects and assemblage … (so) I’m doing something more sculptural for ‘ALT,’ ” she says.

Unlike Stewart, Rathke didn’t start with a stockpile of objects. 

“I’m a person who goes to Goodwill a lot and finds an object that speaks to me,” explains Rathke. “I went and found a whole bin of Barbie dolls.” 

The Barbies were already the worse for wear — nude, with tangled and dirty hair.

“I felt like, wow these are something I loved as a kid, and I never would have thought to destroy Barbies,” she says.

Art by Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy’s “Mind’s Eye” is made of encyclopedias and is featured in “ALT.”

Not only would Rathke never have hurt a hair on her Barbie’s head during her childhood, she says she had intense feelings of love and connection with many of the objects in her life. 

“I sometimes said goodnight to my toothbrush,” she says.

When Rathke found the bin of Barbies at Goodwill, she immediately was inspired to pair them with an object she had previously found and kept — a mirror. 

Contrary to the gentle urges she might have felt as a child, Rathke got rough with the ubiquitous plastic dolls. She cut off their hair and spray-painted them pink. She wanted to subvert the color’s frequently assigned gender-specific meaning.   

“You make pink be whatever it wants to be,” the artist says. 

Rathke thinks the sort of challenge “ALT’ presents to creatives is important for their development. 

“I see artists who have their niche … and I think it’s important for me to make a lot of different things and keep learning,” she says. “And the only way is to keep experimenting with new materials.”

Sounds like “ALT” will be a learning experience for all 14 artists involved, and it promises to be an evening of new materials, new ideas and strong feelings — hopefully for the artists and the attendees.  

“ALT” opens on Saturday, July 20, with a free reception from 7 to 10 p.m. The exhibit continues through Aug. 12. Revelry is located at 742 E. Market St.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.