ARTHAGS: Kate Hutchens explores collage as meditation to capture her life stories

ARTHAGS: Kate Hutchens explores collage as meditation to capture her life stories

We are thrilled to present a new artist in our showcased indie artist series, #ARTHAGS. Kate Hutchens uses collage as a meditative technique to capture her story in the sea of life, from an abusive marriage to radio station internships.

Kate Hutchens was born into a family of arty people, who, like many Midwesterners, were happy to create but shy to share their work or call themselves artists. Both of her parents painted and drew. Her mother enrolled her in community classes where she became familiar with ceramics, painting, drawing, and film photography. Kate uses old photos, watercolor, ink, and other mixed media to tell stories from her life in layers. One piece can contain artifacts from her life that she has been keeping as precious objects for years.

Nowhere Man

(photo collage, epoxy and acrylic)

In 2017, I ended a 10-year-marriage with an emotionally abusive man. As a way to heal my heart, I channelled my pain through art. At first, I felt the catharsis of cutting up hundreds of photos of our life together, even wedding photos and irreplaceable photos from our life. I cried as I separated all those pieces into color groups and released the hold their memories had on me.

I created the image of the “Nowhere Man” as I meditated on the lines of emotionally unavailable men in our family, men who only exist on the surface level. There was such a throughline of men – even loving ones – who had not cared for their inner self. I modeled the form after my paternal grandfather, whom I never met. Family stories relate that he was so abusive, he caused trauma in his wife and all his children, including my sweet-but-distant father. I named him “Nowhere Man” as a nod to the shared love of the Beatles held by my mother, dad, sister, and I.

Completing this work helped me accept that I can create my own stories and meaning from incomplete materials.

Radio Campus Orléans

(pen, ink, watercolor, pencil)


Since the arrival of Covid19 and the world’s efforts to shelter at home and slow its spread, I have had a lot of time to think about how we transmit our voices into the world. Like many, I have been staying at home. For weeks, the only time I really left home was to go to my local public radio station, where I work as a fill-in host. I’d drive from my lonely home to an empty broadcast studio in an empty radio station, but speak intimately to thousands of people, many of whom are also home and lonesome.

The image of sending your words into the great unknown of space intrigues me; the image of this radio station is more concrete. It’s a real student-run radio station in Orléans, France, where I interned as part of a summer language program. I had a decade of radio experience but limited French skills at the time; still, I loved connecting with new friends in that funny little radio station that looked like a spaceship. We were truly sending our messages into the beyond.

Café Photo

(photo collage, mod podge, acrylic)

This collage marries two of my loves: coffee and photography. This piece is the first time I cut up photos into such small parts that you couldn’t distinguish what they originally represented, and made something new. I can look at the piece now and see my life then: a former kitty friend, summer camp, adventures and trips with my former love. As a whole, you see a coffee, with steam escaping the top, dissolving into the background of the piece.

Making photo collages is meditative for me. First, cutting the pieces is soothing, and then sorting the pieces helps you look at them a new way. And finally, finding the perfect piece to complete each aspect is satistying.

What do you aim to capture/reveal/explore in your art? Has this shifted over time?

I’m still finding my stride as an artist, so what I am most interested in capturing is my little story in the sea of life. I paint the flowers my niece brings me for Valentine’s Day to mark that memory down. I consider the image I am drawing or painting and what it means to me. I hope to move toward a more futuristic approach to art, where I am speculating on how life and the world could be or should be. I want to keep experimenting with styles, mediums, and formats. This is a joyful journey.

Where can people find out more about your art online?

People can follow my Instagram at @kadiveykate for more art and snapshots from life in Kansas.