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Respite by Abby Kacen

On view in the CCBC Gallery May 10—June 20, 2021

View the available paintings in the CCBC Gallery Customer Purchase Guide. Email inquiries to [email protected].

EVENT: Get Artistic Third Thursday (Meet the Artist), June 17 @ 6:00 pm

Respite (n.): a short period of rest of relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

CCBC_AbbeyArtStillWeb-0134Abby Kacen is an artist living and working in Athens, Georgia. Primarily a cartoonist and illustrator, Abby is also a muralist, chalk artist, and painter. Abby founded the Keep It Weird Art Collective in 2020 to connect artists over a digital platform and aid them with selling their work online. Abby has a Masters in Nonprofit Management & Leadership and serves on the board of the Athens Area Arts Council in addition to her work with several other local nonprofit organizations. Under the name Mild Pain, Abby’s work draws inspiration from 90’s comics and cartoons, music, and personal stories portraying the human experiences in a myriad of bold colors and weird creatures. 

The exhibited work of art is for sale at Creature Comforts’ downtown Athens taproom through June 20, 2021. The artist is generously donating 20% of proceeds from this exhibition to Get Artistigrantmaking efforts. Get Artistic aims to foster place attachment—to help more Athenians love Athens—by investing in the local creative economy. Learn more about Get Artistic by clicking here.

From the artist: 

The Respite Project is an abstract expressionist painting series made in 2020-2021.

While this series of work departs from my more recognizable cartoons and illustrations often found around Athens, the theories and questions I ask myself in all of my work is the same. When I’m telling a character’s story, that work investigates something about life and personal experiences of my own but played out through a different voice and circumstances I’ve not lived.

With the Respite paintings, I’ve taken the theories of abstract expressionism, which is that the essence of art is a physical experience with the artist and the materials combined, along with the definition of the word respite all while processing personal grief, unpacking identity, and coping with the tragedies of 2020. Something about abstract paintings on small surfaces has taught me something about relinquishing control. I can pick my colors and my canvas, but I can’t necessarily predict how the paint will fall or what textures will be achieved. Much like life itself, we can always make choices, but we don’t know how to make sense of something, like tragedy, until after the outcome has already happened.

Tragedy is often out of our individual control and we find ourselves asking a lot of “how’s,” “why’s,” and “what if’s.” With abstract art you have to acknowledge, as a viewer and creator, that there are certain things you can’t control no matter how hard your brain wants to rationalize and organize chaos. If we allow ourselves to let go when processing these images, we may find our own patterns and shapes within.

And so, in this series, the act of creation allowed me to work those questions out of my mind and create new mental and emotional space for myself to make a variety of art since 2020.


How did you get started making art? Did you go to school for art? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

I’ve been making art since I was a kid. I still have my early childhood notebooks of very silly but sweet comics about my stuffed animals. I took art classes in high school and went on to get a BFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Georgia. I think I always knew I wanted to keep making art, but the form of that has changed over time. I’ve found that I’m able to continue working on my own art while contributing to the art community, collaborating with other artists, and helping bolster my community as a whole.

Do you have any advice for less experienced artists who are looking to find their creative voice?

For any emerging artist or someone just getting started, the best advice I can give is to just be honest with yourself and do what you like. It’s easy to get caught up and overwhelmed when looking at very talented artists and feeling like you’ll never reach their level. It can be hard not to compare yourself to them, but you’ll find what you’re looking for if you try to shut out the noise and just listen to yourself.

If there was one thing you wish the world knew about you or about what it’s like to be an artist, what would that be?

For me, an artist is just one facet of my identity, and there are several intersecting identities that are also a part of who I am. Everyone should know that art is a part of culture and culture informs part of our identity, history, and community. There’s a lot of assumption and bias with artists, but know that without art we wouldn’t have a lot to reflect on over our global history without the records that art naturally forms.