There are so many things in sculptor Kathy Boortz’s studio that it’s difficult to immediately focus on one of them.
“People are going to look at it and think: ‘Hoarder!’” she kids.
The 63-year-old artist is better described as a forager or, as she puts it, “an urban archaeologist.” The cozy backyard studio in Lakewood where she spends her afternoons is filled with the found materials of her medium.
Boortz, who shows at the Valley House Gallery in Dallas and the Buchanan Gallery in Galveston, produces sculptures of owls, parrots and other birds using wood, fired clay and metal. She also creates whimsical wood figures of people and other subjects.
“I’m gathering natural material all the time,” she says, surveying the stacks of weathered wood she has picked up along the banks of White Rock Lake or at her summer place near Hunt. “Those over there will be bodies. That might be a chick. That one is a buzzard. This is going to be a parakeet.”
Around the room, which is well lighted by fluorescent bulbs, one’s eyes fall on a gecko carcass in a tiny plastic bag, a bird skull, a clipping of a self-portrait of artist Frida Kahlo among parrots, a box of sand dollars, a Japanese dozuki blade saw and a falling-apart copy of Birds of the World: A Survey of the 27 Orders and 155 Families. It is a 1961 edition her grandmother used to own, Boortz says.
The studio occupies what had been part of a one-car garage. It’s been cut into a bit of a smaller space. In the center is a large, elevated work table covered in brushes, pencils, paints, colored wires and other supplies. The room also holds a kiln, band saw, a wall of shelving and surfaces covered with works new and old, including a sculpture of a barn owl in a wood box, a raven and a self-portrait of Boortz with Pickle, her double yellow-headed Amazon parrot. “He’s my muse.”
With an old screen door at the entry, the studio is set under a massive bois d’arc tree and overlooks a wooded lot. Beyond is a small private lake that attracts a lot of wildlife for a city address, including screech owls and Cooper’s hawks.
In the morning, Boortz sets out feed for “just about everybody”: raccoons, a stray cat and a fox, as well as seed for the birds. By noon, she says, she is usually working in the studio, where so much of the natural world at hand, it’s almost as if one is still outdoors.