Building a Career in Art

Augustana graduate Kat Burdine '08 is a professional artist and teacher.

Though she’s a printmaker at heart, Kat Burdine’s art is three-dimensional.

Printmaking is an indirect means of creating art by transferring an image or design by contact with a matrix such as a block, plate, stone or screen.

“I consider myself a printmaker even though I’m not into traditional print work. I’m a process geek — I love how things are made. I set up a situation so things can be made and I have to respond to the process. Very rarely do I know how they’ll turn out.”

— Kat Burdine '08

Beyond the logistics of it, Burdine '08 also uses printmaking to disseminate information. She enjoys the social dialogue and impact of the printmaking medium.

“Art in general does that — the medium brings people outside themselves. I think I’m a printmaker even though some might argue,” she said.

Burdine is indeed a printmaker — that was clear earlier this fall when she was on campus to open her “School Yard Bets” exhibit at Augustana’s Eide/Dalrymple Gallery.

The pieces she chose for this show were both personal and symbolic. Burdine likes to talk about queerness. Flannel, within different cultures, is both “flaggy” and camouflages, she said. She incorporated flannel and plaid into several pieces to critique the stereotype that it is “too masculine.”

The piece “Swag Rocker” mimics Burdine’s own gait in a rocking form. Burdine has one leg slightly shorter than the other and walks differently as a result — with a bit of a swagger. When the piece rocks, it exaggerates her own gait, she said, taking a familiar object and changing it slightly.

She also used this symbolism with her canoe, “But Does it Float?.” She romanticized the quote: “No man is a real woodworker until he’s built his first canoe.” And she disrupted the process in building it. The canoe is based on a 16-foot design — but smashed down to an eight-foot design. It is swollen and full of gaps. Burdine said she fought the wood while constructing the canoe as a way to disrupt the process.

“I was interested in the process of carving. I work with queerness because it’s personal. A lot of my work is heavy — it embodies frustration and anxiety,” she said. “There is a human, larger conversation than just a queerness conversation. In some way, it’s in a playful space and it’s worth having.”

The Making of an Artist

A St. Paul, Minnesota, native, Burdine chose to attend Augustana in part because it was close to home — but still far enough away. She initially intended to major in a science-related field and liked the atmosphere of the school when she visited.

Once she was on campus, Burdine was encouraged to explore her passion for art further, took a photography class and was hooked.

“I got into drawing with Scott [Parsons] and couldn’t be stopped,” she said.

Majoring in art at AU requires students to study a variety of mediums; Burdine remembers taking three-dimensional classes along with drawing, allowing her to continue conversations spanning across different mediums, she said.

“For me, it’s nice not to have constraints of a medium. I’m more porous,” she said.

Part of Burdine’s Augustana experience included an interim course in Peru with Associate Professor of Art Scott Parsons. The class stayed at an orphanage and made kites with the kids there, he said. Burdine shared an installation of kites as part of her senior show.

“She is an amazing person and an artist of conscience,” Parsons said. “It was my privilege to have her in my classes.”

Following graduation, she wanted to do something with “community,” which took her to Honduras. In recent years, Honduras was known as the murder capital of the world. Burdine worked for OYE (Organization for Youth Empowerment) for two years, where her duties included organizing community art programs for at-risk Honduran youth.

“Service is how I saw myself at Augustana. I wanted to learn Spanish, so I went to Honduras for a few months and ended up staying for two years,” she said.

“It is no small thing that Kat went there to help make people’s lives better. She is an artist who takes her work for social justice quite seriously, trying to make the world a better place,” Parsons said.

Burdine returned to Sioux Falls and worked as a designer for Sioux Falls marketing firm Fresh Produce. “It was an incredible experience and I enjoyed being in Sioux Falls as an adult,” she said. “Augustana provided a safe place for exploration. As a city, I feel like Sioux Falls does a similar thing — it is a safe place to be adventurous.”

Burdine then went on to earn her master’s in fi ne arts in print media from the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art, graduating in 2015.

Today, Burdine works to incorporate playfulness into her art. Case in point is her series of dogs carved from wood. When living in Honduras, Burdine saw dogs everywhere and missed their presence when she returned to the U.S. The dogs in her show were carved in a variety of positions and then Burdine charred them, which turned them black. If you touch them, they mar you; this was part of her intent to create an entry point to bring people into her work, creating a conversation, she said.

“It is this playfulness that is found throughout the exhibition that allows Burdine to disarm our expectations and allow the viewer to contemplate socially assigned narratives, be they gender roles or other societal expectations,” said Dr. Lindsay Twa, chair, associate professor of art, and director of the Eide/ Dalrymple Gallery.

Conversations about life and art were common during her time at Augustana — Burdine still connects with a solid group of friends made at AU. She can trace their friendship back to sand volleyball at Solberg Hall, she said. She admits to being a “horrendous” student until she came to Augustana and that her peers helped shape her learning process.

“It was divine providence or cosmic mishap that I was in this place. This is an important place. It is a safe place. People cared and encouraged me to be curious and to push that curiosity,” she said. “Being surrounded by peers who were interested in life and were interesting made a difference. Scott Parsons’ drawing class made me want to do homework. I’m a big advocate of the liberal arts. I like investigating things. I enjoyed that we were encouraged to take science and religion courses and have conversations that fed into my practice.”

Burdine currently teaches foundations studio classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She’ll be in Cleveland for the next five to seven years, she said, and is still exploring how she intends to impact the community of Cleveland. She hopes to continue teaching and is also dabbling in furniture-making, enjoying the constraints in constructing pieces.

“In Honduras, I learned it was crucial to listen. To feel things out first instead of stepping in,” she said. “I enjoy doing things we don’t plan for. It makes things more interesting.”