Kristy Hughes: Seeing is Forgetting

WELCOME to the Indy Arts Studio Series, where you will find behind-the-scenes information such as raw footage from conversations with featured artists, details about artwork development, artist bios, the show at-a-glance, and other details about the exhibitions in Gallery 924 at the Arts Council.

Kristy Hughes: Seeing is Forgetting

Gallery 924 
May 6 – 27, 2016

Kristy Hughes’ Seeing is Forgetting features work that is about following curiosities, discovering the potential in limited materials, and bringing to the surface the underlying systems that organize and inform chaos.

Hughes starts each piece by laying down one simple mark, gesture, or color on paper. Using monotype, woodcut, and paint, she purposely makes a mess, something that does not aesthetically make sense, to create chaos. Once the disordered composition builds up, she slashes through the thick layers using an X-Acto knife and begins to reveal what lies underneath. She deconstructs, sometimes aggressively with a sander, and other times by meditatively peeling small pieces of paper by hand. She starts the process over again–adding and taking away, hiding and revealing. She organizes and structures the composition that started from a simple, intuitive mark. She “fixes” the mess, and the composition is finished when the work lies somewhere between chaos and control.

Kristy Hughes is an artist and printmaker, who received her MFA in Printmaking from Indiana University in 2015. Over the past few years, Hughes has exhibited in over 60 shows. She was an artist-in-residence at Vermont Studio Center in July 2015, where she was awarded a full fellowship. Hughes is currently an artist-in-residence at the Stutz Artists Association in Indianapolis, Adjunct Professor of Art & Culture I at Ivy Tech Community College in Terre Haute, and Part-time Assistant Professor of Drawing at DePauw University in Greencastle. She has a cactus named Cilantro and a gecko named Pepperoni. Learn more about the artist and her work by visiting her website.


Prior to the exhibition’s opening, the Arts Council visited her studio at the Stutz Arts & Business Center and spoke with her about her exhibition at Gallery 924.

What is your background? What influences you as an artist?


“Discovering new things was always super exciting for me.”

Hughes did not take any art classes in high school and grew up being interested in biology. It wasn’t until a college printmaking course that she discovered art as a passion she would follow. She was so inspired by the class and her instructor that she ended up changing her major from biology to art. Hughes continued her studies at Eastern Illinois University, where she earned an MA in printmaking and drawing, and she eventually went on to completing an MFA at Indiana University.

Hughes says she is most inspired by former professor Denise Rehm-Mott, and from her, Hughes learned that art could be a full-time occupation. Hughes says that she enjoys the written work of Robert Irwin and Agnes Martin, and is also inspired by artists Mark Bradford, Julie Mehretu, Judy Pfaff, Käthe Kollwitz, and Francisco de Goya.

 “For me, the impetus of my making is to follow my curiosities…and to continually surprise myself while I’m making.”

What is your artistic process? Is it based on purely aesthetic choices?


“It started off as a very formal investigation of aesthetics.”

Hughes likes to create challenges for herself. She begins each piece by creating a “mess” made of non-aesthetically pleasing parts, such as layers of paint and paper scraps. Once she has created visual chaos, she brings order to the work by using elements and principles of design to create a complete composition through cutting out and re-pasting. In this undertaking, she must find the aesthetic qualities of the work and bring it to the surface. 

“I am a formalist at heart…Things will work if you follow formal rules.”

Hughes also challenges herself by setting up rules for the creation of each piece. For example, she will let herself use only two colors of paint for a piece. The artist likes to impose a self-made structure for her creative process, and she says that boundaries help her see how far she can push herself. Hughes thinks that her work is about realizing the order that frames her own perceptions as well as rules imposed by her upbringing or contemporary society.

From where does the title of this series, Seeing is Forgetting, come? How does your work ascribe to the “notion of inherent potential?”


“Seeing is forgetting the name of thing that one sees.”

Through her work in this series (featured in Gallery 924’s May exhibition), Hughes physically interprets the above quote by Paul Valéry. She transforms discarded materials and art supplies by combining and layering them to create completed compositions. In essence, she is creating everything out of nothing.

The concept behind her work always returns us to the idea that Hughes can start with one thing, such as graphite marks on a piece of paper, and transform it by scraping, sanding, or combining it with something else. To create her work and have it make sense, Hughes uses self-imposed boundaries and rules to compose works out of the chaos she initially creates. 

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Gallery 924 is open Monday – Friday from 9 am – 5 pm.  Thursdays from 9 am – 6 pm.