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Ugly Instinct: The Animals Inside of Us

By Kate Smith and Lindsey Willis


It’s a few hours before our 8 a.m. classes. Lindsey Willis and I, Kate Smith, are standing in front of two wooden half circles, clamped into rusty easels. We’re painting a four-foot-tall cockfight in Wey Hall’s fluorescent third floor.

It’s the final cohesive piece for our collaborative art show UGLY INSTINCT, a show that features the animals inside of us. UGLY INSTINCT opens at the Nth Degree Gallery on First Friday, Oct. 3 from 7:30 p.m. until late. Screen-printed posters, unisex t-shirts and girls’ racerback tanks will be for sale.

Smith: My friendship with Lindsey started in February in a Touché Amoré mosh pit. We discovered we’re both zodiac animals, and found eachother on Facebook later that night. Specifically, we found photos of the other’s animal skull collection.

Willis: It’s hard for both of us to make girlfriends, but every time we would hang out we would talk for hours. We shared alot of personal stories about the ugly things that we’ve done and that have been done to us.

Smith: We found that we are very similar in romantic relationships and our approach to art. With both, we have this core that is totally selfish and totally creative. It does an equal amount of good and bad, so we can’t cut it out, because if we did, we’d be soulless. At least, that’s what we kept saying to each other.

Willis: In July, one of my studio art teachers told me to go by the Nth and try to get a solo show. I didn’t think I could fill a place like that by myself, but Kate’s art and my art made sense together. A lot of the art we make is disturbing, but it’s rendered in a way that’s almost comforting. We wanted to put together a show that was intimate and inquisitive; something that feels good, but makes you think.  As far as us getting along, I can’t think of another girl who would pick up road kill.

Smith: I saw a painting Lindsey did of a man being attacked by dogs called “Save Me From My Own Kind.” And it made me feel, when most art nowadays doesn’t. I felt like I had painted the same idea in a completely different form.

Willis: I think I have the style that I do because it allows me to get a little dirty and personal with my work. I scratch into the canvas that eventually turns into an animal. I also love making dynamic pieces with animals interacting because it causes people to wonder why I chose to do it. It stirs up questions. It’s not just a pretty picture of a dog. It’s a dog killing a bird or cat. That “Why?” is the whole point.

Smith: I found my style while living in an off-grid cabin in Deep Gap. I started painting on wood that my Dad, who was a contractor, would give me when I went home. I felt like these dark organic paintings finally said what I couldn’t otherwise. I started to do a lot of hyper-realistic charcoal drawings of distorted people with animals. And even as much as my style has developed since, Lindsey is always showing me where I box myself in. I think the reason we get along so well also is because we desire to challenge and we don’t want anybody to give into us and we don’t give into each other.

Willis: I have someone now who is just as passionate as I am and because of it, I’m getting art ideas all the time. So even if it’s 4 a.m. on Friday before the show, as long as I can look at Kate and ask “Do you feel good about this?” and she says “Yes,” and she asks me the same thing and I say “Yes,” then I’m happy.

Smith: You know how all good art and literature is based around some core tension? That’s our friendship. That will always be our art. And that’s this show.

For more information, find UGLY INSTINCT on Facebook or email Kate Smith at katherinesmith105@gmail.com.

fallen tree

hummingbirds outstretched hands