100 Days of the Nature of Home

Interview by Keith Waits. Images from Tatiana Rathke

Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Tatiana Rathke is a Louisville-based photographer and artist. Tatiana graduated from Bellarmine University with a degree in Communication and a minor in Art.  During the day, she works as a project coordinator for a film production company, helping to tell stories with the amazing team at Donna Lawrence Productions. By night, you can find her with anything from a camera in her studio to a craft knife in her hand. 

1. Where do you work, and are you still working during quarantine?

I am currently a digital design assistant and project coordinator for a museum film production company called Donna Lawrence Productions here in Louisville. I do this in addition to being a multidisciplinary visual artist. The museum work is project-based, and luckily, there are still projects going on across the US so I’ve been able to work from home remotely. Our small team is spread out across the country so working virtually was something we were all pretty used to doing. 

2. Tell me about the mural project you just completed with Hadley Creatives?

Yes, I’m so excited that finally happened! It took over a year to make it become a reality and I’m super impressed with how it turned out. It was a huge undertaking because of all the different stages it had to go through (from conception, ideation, many early morning meetings, lots of input) and I’m really glad to have worked on a team with my fellow Hadley Creatives to design it. I helped with the visuals. We were presented with the opportunity to create a mural from Sarah Lindgren (Public Art Administrator for Louisville Metro Gov). We knew that we were going to have it printed on aluminum so that it would be long-lasting and also not really impact the wall (since it was on a historic building downtown). Its title is I Am the Art and it’s about the importance of the artists (the makers, the doers, the dreamers) that make all the art that the world loves. We photographed all the Hadley Gen 2, wrote a beautiful piece to express the meaning behind the work, and collaged all the imagery into stunning graphic visuals. It’s mounted on the walls where ReSurfaced is on Main St. and will be there for at least a few years. 

3. What is the next project you are/were scheduled to do?

I’m currently working on a 100-day project which I’m documenting through social media (Instagram @tatianarathke) called “100 Days of the Nature of Home”. Every day, I’m exploring what kind of creativity I can find within my “home” space that focuses around my house, the yard, and sometimes even venturing out into the neighborhood. I’ve really found a passion for nature in the last few years so this project lets me freely play, and create with the environment around me while also telling my story as an artist in the process of learning. It’s cathartic, pushes me to stay in the practice of making art even when I’m not in the mood, and allows me to explore ideas that I would otherwise put on the backburner. So far I’ve made found-floral face coverings, created a zine, put up a “pretend” poster, and did block printing on fabric for face masks.

4. When did you know you were an artist?

I knew I was an artist when I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing and interesting art is. I always surrounded myself with artistic friends and was involved in a lot of art projects but a grey cloud of imposter syndrome tricked me into thinking that I was just someone who liked to be around art and that I wasn’t capable of creating anything on my own. I falsely labeled myself purely as a helper versus the person who could take the lead. I felt like that for years and it wasn’t until I was pretty much brought to tears from unmanaged jealousy that I realized that I too can choose to be brave and just go for what I really want and start making things. I’ve relabeled the helper side of myself now as a collaborator. I’ve always loved being in meditative creative flows but it was doing it consistently and years after college that I felt ready to use the word artist when talking about myself. 

5. What is your training?

I graduated from Bellarmine University in 2013 with a Bachelors in Communication and a minor in Art. I almost majored in Art but my year-long stint at the University of Amsterdam as an exchange student didn’t make it possible to get enough credits to be a double major in just four years. Amsterdam exposed me to film theory, art history, and cultural studies courses that I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed only in the states for school, so no regrets there. At Bellarmine, my main focus was on photography and digital art and outside of school in the years leading up to now, I’ve done a ton of self-directed study through online courses, talking to creatives, and being a big fan of the library. I’d love to get my Masters in Fine Art someday or immerse myself in residencies that make me push my limits. 

6. What do you think of the notion that self-isolation might be easier for visual artists because they are accustomed to working alone in their studio? 

I think that makes a lot of sense, especially for me. I’ve been yearning for a big chunk of uninterrupted studio time for a long time. I can tend to struggle with boundaries around making time for myself and self-isolation has quickly created a reality where I have no choice but to be with myself and my art more. That being said, the grief of saying goodbye to the world as we once knew it, doesn’t always make it conducive for me to be amazingly productive, but it has forced me to slow down in my practice and figure out what I feel compelled to do with my time. So far, I’ve learned that to be in for the long haul, I must be patient and persistent. 

7. Besides Louisville, what other places have you worked?

I’ve worked in Charlestown, Indiana (product photographer for Amazon), remotely for a marketing company in Norfolk, England, and for a design agency called gyro in Munich, Germany. I’m not really a native Louisvillian either (though I say Lou-y-ville just like you’re supposed to!) Born in Virginia, raised in Minnesota, 7 years in Tampa, and then plopped in Shelbyville at the end of high school. Moving made me a person who’s constantly searching for that feeling of home. I like to imagine home is super cozy and comforting. 

8. How is working in Louisville different?

It’s hard for me to say because so much of my adult life has been spent working here but my gut instinct is to say that Louisville feels like it has a bunch of creative energy that is accessible to anyone who’s interested in getting involved in it. It feels friendly and enthusiastic. I also appreciate that new programs and voices are being added to the local scene which is challenging Louisville to grow and become the best version of itself that it can be. This makes me believe in the quality of work that comes out of Louisville.  I’m really interested in seeing and helping Louisville become more involved regionally with other big cities and even small towns in the area. The more we communicate and connect with our surroundings, the more unique, interesting, and supportive, we’ll become. 

9. If you hadn’t become an artist, what would you be doing?

I would have liked to be the ringmaster of a traveling circus or now that I’ve discovered a love for plants, a botanist. Maybe it’s not too late. 

10. What music have you been listening to?

I’m listening to quarantine playlists that my friends Alison Longmire and Sammy-Jo Hand are creating on Spotify. I’m grooving to the late-night breakbeats from my favorite local DJ, LB3, which stream over Facebook and Youtube. I’ve made a collaborative music video of friends and myself dancing to the “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. I’m also trying to learn songs on my uke that have to do with home, like my recent personal favorite, “This Must Be the Place” by the Talking Heads. 

11. What book is on your bedside table now?

I have a revolving stack of books that I carry with me from the coffee table to my bedside table and I’m reading about five of them. The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin, Modern Tantric Buddhism by Justin von Bujdoss, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown, and How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz.

12. What is the first thing you will do when you can come out of quarantine?

Build a giant fort out of sticks and old lace fabric from Goodwill, cover the ground in big pillows, and invite everyone I know over to have a giant tea party where we’ll dress up in some theme (like Rococo era/embody your favorite native plant) and spend an entire day talking, sharing dishes, and sharing how great it feels to be in front of other humans in real life. 

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.Instagram: @tatianarathke and @tatianarathke_creative