Cat Balco

My newest group of paintings, Strike Zone, is about manufacturing’s machines and processes and the human labor that is still a critical part of making. The term Strike Zone is initially derived from baseball, but has been appropriated by kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy promoting efficiency in manufacturing that became well known in the United States in the 1980’s. In the context of kaizen, Strike Zone refers to the optimal physical area – between knees and shoulders - in which a laborer can use her hands to complete manual work.

I wonder: can an abstract painting speak about the abilities and limitations of a physical body as it makes/works/labors? Examples of paintings that refer to artists’ physical bodies can be found throughout art history. I am interested in contributing my own voice to this lively conversation, by connecting my paintings specifically to the history of labor.

Another question: can kaizen be applied to a painting studio, so that paintings can be made within it with “maximum efficiency?” And what would an “efficient” painting look like? For centuries, artists have been aware that artistic production processes impact the content and meaning of artworks. On one side of history, entrepreneurial artists during the Renaissance assembled massive studios filled with laboring assistants, and on the other, abstract artists in the 1980’s built “painting machines” to do their painting work for them. Although the results were wildly different, both groups shared the same aim: transforming the field of painting by transcending the limitations of their own physical bodies.

Finally, Strike Zone refers to labor strikes. The state of Connecticut, where my studio is located, has a rich history of participation in such protests. Can the hands-on work of painting speak about the social and political issues surrounding manual labor of other kinds? And can an abstract painting speak simply and directly like a picket sign?