the artist

Katie Murken

Katie Murken

Pittsburgh, PA

Katie Murken

Continua was conceived and created in Katie Murken’s Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studio at 1241 Carpenter Street between 2009 and 2011.  The project started with a curiosity about the relationship between books, geology and time.  Murken has always been drawn to forms and processes that show time as a sequence of moments; individual, yet connected to the past and the future.  Walking to her studio from her home in South Philadelphia, she noticed the discarded phone books left out on stoops and sidewalks.  Exposure to the elements caused the pages to warp and curl until they began to resemble geological strata.  The weathered phone books provided Murken with an image of time that was instinctively familiar and she took some phone books to her studio to experiment with coloring the pages and stacking them into columns.  This simple gesture set the ball rolling for Continua, a series of 24 hand dyed columns built from nearly 1,000 salvaged phone books.
Murken acquired the phone books for Continua from Yellowbook's surplus warehouse in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  Back in her studio, she deconstructed each phone book by removing its cover and breaking it down into smaller sections of various sizes.  She then dipped these sections into baths of acrylic dye to saturate them with color and create a warped effect similar to what she had seen in the weathered phone books.  Finally, the sections were stacked into columns to show a dynamic progression of color.

Fast Facts

Name: Katie Murken


Place of Birth: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2002, BFA –The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA,
2005, MFA – The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA,

Notable or memorable instructors or mentors:
Hedi Kyle, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Particular field of study or class work:
Book arts

Major influences/admired artists:
I am influenced by folk artists such as the quilters of Gee’s Bend and James Hampton who created one of the great works of American folk sculpture: The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, on display in the National Museum of American Art, in Washington D.C. These artists embody the idea that art is most transformative when a person uses their hands and their intellect to elevate a base material into a beautiful object. This transformative power is something I strive for in my work.

I admire the work of Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei, as well as Philadelphia stained glass artist Judith Schaechter. I also appreciate the work of contemporary artist Tauba Auerbach who shares my interest in books as an instrument for blurring the boundary between 2D and 3D form.

Favorite materials or media:
I enjoy working with found materials than can be easily procured and have some artistic potential. Phone books and plastic shopping bags are recent examples that I have worked with. My focus is on the transformation of these materials from humble and overlooked to beautiful and engaging. To accomplish this, I pay close attention to the inherent characteristics of the material and use these qualities to inform my process of deconstructing, transforming, and rebuilding. I often employ techniques from domestic and folk traditions such as dyeing, patchwork and sewing.   

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