Kenyon College

Cat Raynor


Cat Raynor

Rye, NY 

Kenyon Class of ’15, Studio Art major, Art History minor


I have always been fascinated by the fragile strength of the human skull.  A porcelain shell that varies little from person to person, a delicate house of bone that protects every thought, feeling, and impulse sparking constantly in our brains. There is a certain comfort to being in our own heads, to keeping feelings secret and never letting emotion pass beyond the walls of our skulls. 

My skull serves as a barrier between my most private thoughts, fears, and desires and those that I present to the world. What I say is not always what I mean, what I feel is not always what it may seem.  In my work, I look to reflect the experience of feeling both trapped and safe inside one’s own mind. Each space I create, large enough for only one person at a time, lends itself to an individual experience, a temporary escape from the noise and distraction of reality.

Using packing materials to create the inside surfaces, I represent the desire to create a padded barrier between ourselves and the world outside. Each material, although used for protection, is fragile and flimsy when pressured or torn apart. The colors I paint with vary from excitedly vibrant to serenely beautiful, yet quickly grow brown and muddy around the edges. The bubbles create intricate protection but pop quickly and sag. The stuffing provides soft padding but is easily destroyed by human hands.  Each wall of the space presents a dichotomy between safety and vulnerability, between beautiful and ugly. 

This duality is evocative of my own human experience and the tempestuous transition from joy to sadness I may feel in processing my emotions. While both rooms present a controlled, pristine exterior unrecognizable from what is inside, each internal space also represents opposite states of mind. Abstractly, my installations are a self-portrait. Born out of the desire to reveal my internal self in a way I could not with words, my work expresses the duality of being within my own person. Torn between a bright exterior favored by others and a darker, more fragile and difficult core, I often find it hard to accurately and completely represent myself, let alone reconcile the two states of being. There is a constant push and pull to coping with life, with depression, and with our own identity. The parallel spaces draw upon the wavering nature of human concept of self, inviting fast comparison between two vastly contrasting experiences of texture, color, and mood. 

My work is a study in transformation and transcendence of material and ideology. It is a creation exploring the fragile beauty of the human system and our desire for self-preservation. My pieces explore my own fragile emotions and often misrepresentation of self in effort to capture the countless fleeting shades of human emotional experience. 


–Cat Raynor, ‘15