“A Day in the Life” with Toronto multimedia artist Kat Singer

Kat Singer is a Toronto-based multimedia artist, activist, and educator. Queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent, immigrant, feminist, creative; Kat’s art emerges out of the intersections of their various identities and their passion for social justice.

Kat’s work exists on the border of art and activism. Love Letters to Myself is an ongoing street art project using stencilled messages of self-compassion, discreetly spray-painted in public spaces. Photographs of these messages—like “It’s Okay to Have a Bad Day” or “Slow Down”—have been turning up on social media platforms for a couple of years now, alongside the stories of those who unexpectedly encountered them just when needed it. Another ongoing project, Message in a Bottle, uses community storytelling to combat the stigma and isolation experienced by those living with chronic illness and disability. Participants take their prescription medication bottles, censor any private information, and put a message describing their personal experience with illness or medication inside. Equal parts moving and enlightening, these stories have been shared as part of Kat’s 2017 solo show Spoonderland, as well as online at https://messageinabottleproject.tumblr.com. Selected stories from this project will also be featured in an upcoming show titled Bursting Bubbles: Creating Context for Evolving Solitudes, which is part of the Rendezvous With Madness Festival, presented by Workman Arts. Kat has recently rediscovered fiber arts: Unravel 2 (2018) is a series of crochet fiber sculptures illustrating dysfunctional emotions and relationships.

Kat is intrigued by the healing potential of the arts: something they have witnessed as both an artist and a facilitator. Kat teaches art in a variety of settings, including makerspaces, community centres, private homes, and hospital wards. They are also an avid volunteer, lending their skills and passion to many art and social justice oriented initiatives all across the GTA.

-Written by Jay Keeping, Kat’s longtime friend

Kat Singer - Most of my days begin and end with cat cuddles. Strelle (also known as the Homunculus) is the light of my life. She’s not too happy about wearing a model cave I made.
Most of my days begin and end with cat cuddles. Strelle (also known as the Homunculus) is the light of my life. She’s not too happy about wearing a model cave I made.
Kat Singer - My installation Unravel at the Feminist Art Conference in Toronto in May 2018.
My installation Unravel at the Feminist Art Conference in Toronto in May 2018.
Kat Singer - Warping vinyls at the cottage. I don’t always look this silly when I work, but when I do, I ask a friend to snap a pic.
Warping vinyls at the cottage. I don’t always look this silly when I work, but when I do, I ask a friend to snap a pic.
Accidentally twinning with my dad at an art show.
Accidentally twinning with my dad at an art show.
“Preoccupied” is one of the sculptures from “Unravel 2” series. Some of us dwell almost entirely in our heads, weighed down by all of our sprawling thoughts. Others focus on their bodies: chasing physical health and perfecting our form. Is a healthy balance achievable?
“Preoccupied” is one of the sculptures from “Unravel 2” series. Some of us dwell almost entirely in our heads, weighed down by all of our sprawling thoughts. Others focus on their bodies: chasing physical health and perfecting our form. Is a healthy balance achievable?
I crochet everywhere. Even at Costco.
I crochet everywhere. Even at Costco.
I don’t always look this glamorous when I study, but when I do I ask a friend to snap a pic.
I don’t always look this glamorous when I study, but when I do I ask a friend to snap a pic.
“Doesn’t Take a Holiday” is an assemblage sculpture made of LED light strings and 200 recycled prescription medication bottles. It illuminates the experience of living with a chronic illness; its presence as a constant, even as the symptoms ebb and flow. See this artwork in all its glory at Bursting Bubbles, October 11-21.
“Doesn’t Take a Holiday” is an assemblage sculpture made of LED light strings and 200 recycled prescription medication bottles. It illuminates the experience of living with a chronic illness; its presence as a constant, even as the symptoms ebb and flow. See this artwork in all its glory at Bursting Bubbles, October 11-21.
A Message in a Bottle. “I’m worried that my apparent ability to be fine no matter what happens is owed to the medication. If so, then do I not have the coping skills I thought I did? And am i just insulating myself from reality?”
A Message in a Bottle. “I’m worried that my apparent ability to be fine no matter what happens is owed to the medication. If so, then do I not have the coping skills I thought I did? And am i just insulating myself from reality?”

What ‘hood are you in?

I live close to Downsview Park, but I spend a lot of time around Bloor and St. George, where I go to school. Sometimes you will see me around Kensington Market, Trinity-Bellwoods or Parkdale, but sadly I haven’t had much time to be out and about lately.

What do you do?

I’ve decided to take the plunge and go to graduate school for social work. I’m in my first year, and I’m still trying to find my feet. I’ve always aspired to live a meaningful life, and fighting for social justice an equity holds a lot of meaning to me. I am doing my best to continue making art, even as my life is getting increasingly more busy. To me, art is a conduit of my inner strength, something I turn to to keep finding reasons for staying alive. My ultimate hope is that I can merge the two paths I am pursuing, and find a way to be a social worker and a practicing artist at the same time. I think that in this socio-political climate, there is a great need for creative, unconventional, collaborative solutions, even if those at the helm don’t realize this yet.

What are you working on right now?

I’m wholeheartedly consumed by preparing for the Bursting Bubbles exhibition, which features my works in different media: photography, fiber art and sculpture. One of the hidden barriers emerging artists encounter is that the financial and time investment needed to show one’s art often rivals that which is involved in producing the art in the first place. Luckily, the majority of the costs have been subsidized. Workman Arts has been incredibly supportive of my artistic endeavours. So far, I have taken a sculpture class with the exceptionally talented David Salazar, performed with the Bruised Years Choir, honed my teaching skills and earned some money facilitating the Art Cart program at CAMH, participated in two (soon to be three) art shows, sold two of my artworks, got a grant to help me pay for an art residency, and bonded with a number of fellow artists whom I now count among my friends.

I am continuing with Unravel 2 – a series of fiber sculptures that explores dysfunctional states and relationships. Seven of the pieces I’ve completed so far will be part of Bursting Bubbles. The other two that I have been working on will make an appearance at my artist talk titled “Unravelling the Stories of My Past – Adventures in Healing through Fiber Arts” on October 20th. Attendees will get a chance to touch and learn the stories behind each of the figures. There will also be tea, because warm drinks make everything better.

I’m trying to breathe new life into my Message in a Bottle Project. With the current state of our healthcare system, the medical profession’s general reluctance to grant patients more autonomy, and the stigma associated with illness, disability, and medication use, there are significant barriers to accessing compassionate, empowering health care. I know that there are more stories out there that need to be shared, stories that reduce stigma, shatter misconceptions, inform, empower. Submissions can be mailed to Workman Arts, at 651 Dufferin Street, with ATTN: Message in a Bottle Project.

I’m also experimenting with new ideas and materials. Warped Vinyl is a series of vases and containers made from old vinyl records. I remember seeing repurposed objects like these when I was a child in post-Soviet Russia and when I saw piles of records at Value Village, I was inspired. I also have an idea about creating an immersive environment that critiques the culture of compulsory positivity (I am quite curmudgeonly, and I’m cool with it), but I need to source some materials to start testing out my ideas.

Where can we find your work?

You can find my work on the sidewalks of Toronto (#loveletterstomyself project), in the homes of over 100 cat lovers all over the world (I crochet custom catnip toys in my spare time, and 9/10 cats agree that this is art), in several private collections (at this point more art has been gifted than sold, but this is slowly changing), and on my Instagram.

I swear, one day I will invest in an actual artist website.

You can find the Message in A Bottle Project here.

My upcoming artist talk here.

Bursting Bubbles info here.

 

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1393 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography