The Book is the Body: MFA Thesis Show / by Kat Howard

Wow. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly three years of hard work, inspiration, challenges, learning, pushing limits, stumbling, picking myself back up, and growing as an artist and a writer, but my thesis show is finally here! Tonight is the opening and I'm feeling pumped. On Wednesday, I went to the gallery and installed my piece, Cornered, a 25 x 15 foot installation of love, sweat and tears, consisting of over 1000 yards of linen thread, and 300 parent sheets of handmade lokta paper. It's been such a rewarding process, conceptualizing this project and seeing it come alive after months of work.

The Book is the Body: Mills College MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing Thesis Show

To celebrate the first official graduating class for Mills College's MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing, I was interviewed for their newspaper, The Campanil. Here's the full interview I did:

How would you describe the upcoming exhibit, and your project for it?

The upcoming exhibition is the culmination of two and a half years of intense work and study by myself and the other three graduates. It's a celebration of what we've learned, as well as a hint as to where we see ourselves heading creatively after graduate school. My thesis project is called Cornered and is essentially a human sized tunnel book made up of 10 large scale, hand-embroidered paper quilts, that the viewer can walk between. I wanted the viewer's interaction with the piece to inform its meaning.

What was the inspiration behind your project?

By using history as a lens to examine the female body, I'm able to explore the charged awareness of my own identity. The inspiration behind my project was the Brontë sisters. They wrote wildly imaginative stories, while their real lives were restricted and controlled by their father. My project interrogates woman's relationship to the domestic space, themes of the gothic, and the haunting dependence that some women have with the home, historically and even in the present. Many aspects of the self are buried in this landscape. I'm interested in excavating these sites, to uncover what is obstructed behind the façade, to remove the myth of an idealized home, and examine what lingers.

How did you get into book arts?

I got in to book arts when I was a senior at Brandeis University working towards my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. My advising professor who was supervising my thesis in Poetry, encouraged me to think about how the book I made to hold my thesis could reflect and enhance the content. Thinking about my writing in a visual way, inspired me to also think sculpturally and texturally about my work, and lead me to explore the world of book art.

What attracted you to the program at Mills?

I was attracted to the program at Mills because it is the only masters program that offers a curriculum that bridges the creative writing department and the book art department. I view myself as both a writer and an artist, and was drawn to Mills because it acknowledges how these practices can meet in book art. I also loved the location, as an East Coaster I had always wanted to see what it was like to live in the Bay Area.

What has been the best or most rewarding experience throughout this program?

The most rewarding experience throughout this program has been how I have grown as an artist and a writer, in addition to the discipline I have gained through practice that will position me to embark on a career in this unique field. The relationships with my professors have also been immensely rewarding. I've learned so much from them, and am grateful that they pushed me when I needed to be challenged.

Are you nervous about the upcoming exhibit?

I'm mostly excited about the upcoming exhibit, I've worked so hard on my thesis project and it's been a long time in the making. I'm at the point where I can't wait to see it installed and celebrate with my colleagues, friends and family.

To buy a copy of the book for my Thesis Show, check it out at