Collapsing the boundaries between mediums, Kate Petley constructs temporary environments that are intensely lit and photographed in an effort to capture a sense of the artificial sublime. She reframes the luminous surface via the ever-present backlit screen, drawing inspiration from the mechanics of physical sensation. Experimentation and transformation as both process and content are presented by imagery that creates experiential space.
Ordinary and discarded materials like poster board and paper are manipulated and placed within intensely lit arrangements. Roughly handled, her constructed arrangements make no attempt to conceal their flawed surfaces. Indeterminate light sources illuminate vivid environments that question scale and orientation, upending any expectation of photographed reality. Sculptural shapes assume mythic proportions, referring to the history of portraiture and still-life.
Petley has been featured in thirty solo exhibitions and is represented by Von Lintel Gallery in Los Angeles, Robischon Gallery in Denver, and Manneken Press in Bloomington, Illinois. Her work has been featured in publications such as Lenscratch, L’Oeil de la Photographie, the Houston Chronicle, and Artforum’s Must See. Recent catalogue essays include Digital Visions by Saul Ostrow for the Grinnell College Museum of Art.
In 2021, Petley had a major solo exhibition at the University of Colorado Art Museum and simultaneously served as Guest Curator for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. The Stubborn Influence of Painting included nine artists from across the US and London and occupied the entire museum.
She has participated in solo and group exhibitions at the MCA Denver, FotoFest Houston, Museum of South Texas, Nicolaysen Art Museum, Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University, Museum of the Southwest, and the Arlington Museum of Art. Petley participated in PhotoIreland 2017 in Dublin and is a Ucross Foundation fellowship recipient. In 1990, she was awarded an NEA Rockefeller Foundation grant in support of a photographic installation exhibited at Diverseworks Houston. Her work is held in private and public collections including the University of Colorado Art Museum (CUAM), the City of Houston, the Polsinelli Collection, New York Presbyterian Hospital, the Federal Reserve Bank, and many others.
Petley lives and works in New York.