Artist Kate Breakey obsessively takes pictures of the natural world. Growing up in rural coastal Australia in the 1960s, Kate developed at an early age an interest in biology, natural history, and a profound respect for all living things. The vast wilderness, the ocean, the big skies, the plants, and the wildlife have all had an indelible effect on her aesthetic as an artist.
“My desire to document and chronicle the natural world runs deep and satisfies a need to express my wonder and love,” she said. “It connects me to all other living things, and it helps sustain me in the lonely and universally-human quest to find meaning.”
Visitors to The Grace Museum’s main gallery can see Breakey’s impressive work in a solo exhibition which represents her 40-year career as a fine art photographer.
“Kate Breakey: Journey, curated exclusively for The Grace Museum, offers a unique view of the many techniques mastered by Breakey since she began her photography career developing black and white film in the darkroom,” explains Grace Museum Curator Judy Tedford Deaton. “Over the years, she has enhanced distinct photographs by hand-coloring with oil paint, pastel, pencil, and embroidery and has used different processes such as orotone, photogram, inkjet printing, and digital photography: all of which
create a stunning and unique body of work inspired by her awe and wonder of the natural world.”
Breakey goes way beyond simply selecting objects to photograph; she learns everything she can about her chosen subject, then creates a purposeful collection of images that beautifully communicate her respect for each individual animal, plant, or celestial body memorialized in her work.
These collections are very personal and reflective of her thoughtful wonderings about life and death. Their themes encompass a wide range of genus and species including trees, flowers, eggs, nests, birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals—even the moon. She describes her collections as “a kind of random, disjointed visual diary of the things I’ve seen and loved.”
Her meticulous reworking of surfaces requires much time and special attention to the details of each subject’s feathers, fur, petals, leaves, eggshells, clouds, and oceans.
“As a sensualist, I am attached to the pleasures of working with gold leaf on glass, thread in silk, the smell of oil paint, and the alchemy in a darkroom. These things are my greatest pleasure.”
Breakey moved to Austin in 1988. She completed a Master of Fine Art degree in 1991 at the University of Texas, where she also taught photography in the Department of Art and Art History until 1997. She moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1999, where she continues to live and work today. Her work has appeared in more than 110 one-person exhibitions and in over 60 group shows in the U.S., France, Japan, Australia, China, and New Zealand. Her work is held in many public institutions including the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos, the Austin Museum of Art, the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, and the Osaka Museum in Osaka, Japan.
Kate Breakey: Journey is on view at The Grace Museum through Feb. 19, 2022.
Contributed By The Grace Museum