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Seeing Stars

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It's been quite a week for Kate Oberreich. Last Saturday the local artist and her studio mates of their South Broad Ripple gallery Seed & Star were part of the SoBro Arts tour. Then, she happily fielded her ample share of customer service calls during her day job at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. And last night there was The Fault in Our Stars special movie preview to attend, since her artwork was chosen as props for the show. It left little room for anything else, much less interviews from the media, and yet ... she gladly took time to answer some questions for Sky Blue Window.

The Fault in Our Stars may not have been shot on-location, but including an Indy artist helps give it some authenticity. - KATE OBERREICH
  • Kate Oberreich
  • The Fault in Our Stars may not have been shot on-location, but including an Indy artist helps give it some authenticity.

Sky Blue Window: You're a membership associate at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. But wait: Aren't you an artist who holds a BFA with an emphasis on painting? You have a reputation as a mixed media painter. Right? If so, why are you in customer service and not working directly with the art and curating?

Kate Oberreich: All correct. Yes, I'm a Ball State grad who studied painting, but I've always played with mixing in other mediums. I love drawing back into paintings and adding in collage elements. I can't stick to just painting.

I've long held jobs in customer service, and it's one of the things I love about membership at the IMA. It's great to talk with people who are passionate enough about the arts to become members and support the museum. Plus, I'm all about making someone's day when possible. My job lets me do that pretty regularly.

That said, I would love the opportunity to be involved with the curatorial side of things. I have a background in exhibitions and would jump at the chance to work with the art and other artists.

SBW: In your off hours, you're a thriving artist. Can you tell us a bit about that?

KO: I share a studio in SoBro with three very talented women (Emily Schwank, Sofiya Inger and Grace Kite). We'll be celebrating two years in our current space in July.

SBW: So how did your artwork end up in a major motion picture?

KO: I owe it all to Google. Late one Sunday night in August last year, I received an email from someone who said she was a set buyer working on a new film called The Fault in Our Stars and asked if I could give her a call. I'll admit I thought it was a scam at first, but I am so glad I got over that and made the call. When we spoke the next day, she said she had Googled "Indianapolis artists" and somehow my website made it onto the list.

While Oberreich's sketches are screen stars, local art fans are more likely to be familiar with her paintings and mixed media work. - KATE OBERREICH
  • Kate Oberreich
  • While Oberreich's sketches are screen stars, local art fans are more likely to be familiar with her paintings and mixed media work.

SBW: Do you know Sarah Urist Green from her days at the IMA, and her husband (and author) John Green?

KO: I do know Sarah Urist Green. We overlapped at the IMA for a while. We didn't have a lot of interaction, but I briefly represented the development department at Contemporary Art Society meetings (one of the IMA's affiliate groups), which is how we first met.

SBW: So is that how the author knew of your paintings?

KO: I would love to meet John at some point, but the closest I got was Sarah getting him to sign my copy of TFIOS book. But I also discovered a connection to John's brother, Hank. He lives in Missoula, Montana, where I started college before transferring to BSU.

By the way, I love Sarah's new project, The Art Assignment, for PBS. I was pretty tickled to find that this week's assignment was to go see the movie. Done and done!

SBW: Did the movie crew commission you to do particular artwork? Or did the crew buy something you'd already created?

KO: Initially, they were going to buy something already made. I sent several images of finished paintings. But after a bit more website browsing, the buyer found my sketchbooks. I've kept them for years. They're mostly filled with quick sketches, ideas for paintings, collected bits and the occasional grocery list. From there, she commissioned me to make three sketchbooks that would belong to Hazel [the movie's leading female role].

SBW: How long did it take you to create them? 

KO: Since filming was beginning soon, I scrambled to get started right away. Generally, it can take about a year, sometimes more, to fill a sketchbook, but they needed them in a week. So I reproduced a lot of the pages from about 10 years' worth of my personal sketchbooks to make these. I worked all the way through a weekend and took three days off of work to complete everything and get them shipped off in time. I'm not sure I slept much that week, but it was a blast and I would gladly do it again.

Google connected the film's production crew to Oberreich's artwork through her website. - KATE OBERREICH
  • Kate Oberreich
  • Google connected the film's production crew to Oberreich's artwork through her website.

SBW: How does that work? Who bought your work -- was it the props person in the movie's production department?

KO: The sketchbooks were purchased by Twentieth Century Fox. I kind of geeked out when I got a check from an actual movie studio.

SBW: Does your name appear anywhere in the credits? Or is it discreetly visible on the sketchbook cover, hidden within the art, for example?

KO: I wish! How cool would that be?!

SBW: So we can watch for it, tell us where in the movie your art appears? In what scenes will we see it?

KO: It's all in Hazel Grace's bedroom. One of the sketchbooks is sitting on her desk. At one point her cell phone is sitting on top of it, and pages from them were taken out at hung on her walls. They're all over the wall, over her bed and over her desk.

SBW: The fact that your artwork is featured in the movie is awesome, but how much screen time does it get? Is it a blip of coverage or several minutes?

KO: It's pretty great how long the work is on screen. I was so worried that it would be a split second and then gone. In every scene that takes place in her room a piece is visible -- over her shoulder, above her computer screen, stuck to the side of a bookcase next to the bed. But, it's also very much part of the scenery, the background, as it should be. If you didn't know to look for it, it would be missable. And I'm okay with that.

Oberreich's sketches line the wall of The Fault in Our Stars main character, Hazel. - KATE OBERREICH
  • Kate Oberreich
  • Oberreich's sketches line the wall of The Fault in Our Stars main character, Hazel.

SBW: You attended a special movie preview Thursday evening, but are you going to have an opening night party and watch it this weekend too?

KO: When the trailer came out earlier this year, I literally watched every second of it. I stopped and started it over and over again to see if I could catch a glimpse. The best I got was just over two minutes in where I spotted a sticker that I knew came from the sketchbooks.

I finally saw the whole thing last night at the "Night Before Our Stars" screening ... I was so excited. I went with a good friend and her 13-year-old daughter.

I'm planning to see it again on Saturday night and am inviting anyone who wants to come to join me. My grandmother is coming, and she's really excited. She's even bringing some friends.

SBW: You've had gallery openings and seen your work publically displayed, but what was it like to see it in a major motion picture?

KO: It was amazing and a little unreal to see it on a big screen. I almost didn't recognize it. It's been months since I last saw any of the work.

SBW: Anything like this happen with your work before?

KO: This might be the coolest project I've done. I've definitely never done anything like this, and hope it won't be the last time I have work in a movie or show.

SBW: Have you read the book? What do you think of the movie?

KO: Yes, I read the book shortly before being contacted and loved it. Total coincidence. I didn't know it would turn out to be research for a commission. I love the genre. I loved that looking around the theater last night, before and after the movie, all these kids were talking about everything they had read or were planning to read. It's easy to say that kids don't read, but it's not true.

Oberreich's sketches reflect the setting of the film, Indianapolis. - KATE OBERREICH
  • Kate Oberreich
  • Oberreich's sketches reflect the setting of the film, Indianapolis.

SBW: So two thumbs up?

KO: I really love the movie. It's beautifully done -- emotional without being sappy. Incredibly honest and very true to the book. I cried reading the book, and I cried last night in a theater full of fans. There was nearly none with a dry eye.

SBW: Will you please give our readers some good links to find out more about you and your work. Your SoBro studio, your program coming up at the Mooresville Public Library (what are you going to instruct them on there?), and any other relevant places you'd like to direct our readers.

KO: Sure thing, the best place to follow along is my Facebook page. After that, I'm on the web at www.kateoberreich.com. I'm also a big fan of Instagram and you can follow me at @seedandstar. I tweet sparingly, it's not my favorite.

My workshop next Tuesday (June 10th) "The Fault in Your Stars: Create Your Own Art Journal" at the Mooresville Public Library will cover how to start your own visual journal or sketchbook. It's such an important part of my process and I love talking about them. This will be the first of a few workshops I'll be doing this year.

SBW: And finally, what will you do with your newfound fame?

KO: I'll keep doing what I'm doing and making more art, and I hope that people will like it enough to buy it. Ideally, I would love to be a full-time artist, but for now I appreciate the steady paycheck and health insurance.

I have a few projects in the works, including a collaboration with my studio mate, Emily Schwank. I'll keep making art even if no one notices.

I'm not walking any red carpets anytime soon.

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