BENCH MEETS Kat Ortiz

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All clothes by HerBENCH
Photography by Rob Leung
Hair & Makeup by Sari Campos

Kat Ortiz has been places. She finished up high school in Australia. She’s currently taking up fine art in London. And for the summer, she was in Manila, her hometown, roaming art galleries and wakeboarding with friends like Benchsetter Sam Rodriguez.

Even more exploratory: the girl’s imagination, which can go pretty dark depths. For her final art exhibition in high school, a couple of her pieces weren’t included for their grisly content: a vagina on its period, a baby being dissected. She was 16 then, she mentions.

As a student at London’s Central Saint Martins, the 20-year-old has looked beyond the graphic stuff, sometimes even literally. Recently, she transformed a rundown park into a fantasyland through sound. With headphones, people could listen to her audio tour and imagine a slide as a volcano or a basketball court as a desert.

On break from school, Kat talked to B/BLOG about future plans for exhibition, using art to explore her sexuality, and how she sometimes feels like a stranger in her own land.

 

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Hey Kat! When did you know art is where it’s at for you?

I’ve always been inclined to arts or drawing since I was young. But I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do until my last year of high school.

I didn’t have a mentor. When I was in my last year of high school, my art teacher’s wife got cancer so he was not there a lot of the time. Even then, I didn’t mind sitting in this art studio for hours and hours. Whereas everything else, I’d hate to go do it. So I said, hey, maybe this is for me.

What sort of themes have you explored in your work?

[In high school], I was still figuring out my sexuality so I explored that theme a lot, which was a big shocker to the people in my year. We have an exhibit at the end of the year. Some of my pieces were actually banned from being shown publicly.

One of them was, to be quite frank, a giant vagina with—not actual hair but I got a wig and made hair come out. Yeah, it was a 3D pube set but I painted the thing. And it had its period. The other one was a baby being dissected. [Pauses.] This sounds really terrible.

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How did you come up with such an idea?

I called it the Babypino. I researched before that there was this whole thing about Asian beauty and how in Chinese culture, they sometimes put your hands and feet in bottles to make them smaller. That led to stuff about harvesting organs. I was looking into that stuff because one of the things that IB (International Baccalaureate) wants you to do, at least one of the criteria, is to sort of look at your own culture.

There was a lot of stuff at the time about organ harvesting. About how there was a kid in Rockwell that got abducted. They shut down Power Plant but when they found him, his head was already shaved and he was already gonna be put in a bag. They wait for them to grow older, wait for their organs to develop, and sell them on the black market later. I was exploring dark themes. My mom (an art collector) is a big influence on me. She likes it dark.

And who are some artists that are influential to your style?

When I moved to London, there have been a couple performance artists who have been influential. I actually met Marina Abramovic the other month. She was doing something in the Serpentine in London. So her, Anselm Kiefer, Gerard Richter…I’m trying to think of Filipino artists. Well, there’s Tito BenCab and stuff but I don’t paint like that. I appreciate his stuff. There’s also Quisumbing Ramilo, Joel Alonday, John Santos, Winnner Jumalon, Jojo Legaspi, Ronald Ventura, Jose Joya, Fernando Zobel, and Kawayan De Guia.

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Have you decided on where you’d like to be based in the future? 

The Philippines is really special. It’s nice to be home and work in this environment. I am hoping to exhibit at group shows here by 2016.

Any themes in the Philippines you’d like to explore?

Well, I don’t look Filipino but I am and that’s always been something that I get frustrated with. I think of this place as my home and just ‘cause I don’t look like I come from here, they immediately assume that I don’t know about the Philippines. Or they treat me in a different way. Just feelings of displacement, wanting to be a part of it but still feeling like an outsider because of the way I look, the way I talk.

And is there anything you’re excited to do over the break?

I really want to learn how to dirt bike. I like that fast feeling. I like extreme sports.

I saw a scar on your shin earlier. Is that from chasing thrills?

I wish it was but I just fell on a stair (laughs). I should make something up about it—a drama. Like I was cut by a knife.

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