Art + Love: kate rowan fernandez and Gurtie Hansell
kate rowan fernandez and Gurtie Hansell on how they make art, love, and partnership work.
As part of our Art + Love series, kate rowan fernandez and Gurtie Hansell reflect on the day that led to them being fast friends, starting MotherTwin Productions, and what it means to have people in your life who give you permission to push yourself creatively.
This is their story.
On where it all started:
kate rowan fernandez: I was working at a restaurant in Andersonville and I dropped [off] food to Gurtie and a friend at the bar. I remember thinking they were hilarious, cool, and had amazing style. Shortly after Gurtie got a job at the restaurant and we immediately hit it off and became fast friends. We had a lot in common. Our mutual love for fashion and creating eventually turned into MotherTwin Productions.
Gurtie Hansell: I used to live in Andersonville and had a friend in town visiting. We decided to check out this Korean/Italian restaurant Passerotto (now shuttered, a casualty of the Pandemic) that I had been hearing exciting things about. We sat at the bar. kate was running food that evening. I was instantly drawn to her, I loved her style and gorgeous salt-n-pepper hair. Her energy was so upbeat and magnetic. I very quickly applied to work there, got the job, and we swiftly became close friends and fell into BIG platonic love!
On one another’s process and practice:
krf: Free, honest, playful, improvisation. A beautiful juxtaposition of deliberate and spontaneous. Gurtie makes work with such integrity, using their platform (Kangmankey) to uphold their values and make an impact. Gurtie puts their radically inclusive politics front and center!
GH: kate has an impeccable eye for design and knows exactly what she likes. She is incredibly scrappy with materials and very solution oriented! kate always has the answer when I don’t! Her draping work on a dress form is sublime. We share this visual lexicon that finishes each other’s sentences. When we are trying to get on the same page about a concept, and it finally clicks, we refer to it as “Finding it!” or “Oh, I just found it!” Things really start to become three dimensional once we get to this stage.
On sharing space:
krf: We are neighbors. I had been courting Gurtie to live in our building for years, it’s been so wonderful to live so close. We both have studios in our living spaces and when we are working on costume or set design, it’s so convenient to have all our supplies in one building. Living in such close proximity has blended together our social, creative, and mutual care times. We are kind of in a domestic partnership, but with healthy boundaries.
GH: We first started collaborating in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and, back then, we worked in our massive back yard on top of a picnic table and various lawn furniture. Now, we split time between the studios in our respective apartments. This allows us to share materials, tools, and equipment. And work together at the drop of a hat!
On collaborating with one another:
krf: Yes! We have a company called MotherTwin Productions. We’ve been collaborating with local artists styling music videos, set pieces for shows, and theatrical performances. One of my favorites were these celestial columns we made for Desert Liminal’s record release party. I’ve grown so much as an artist in this collaboration. We work so seamlessly together, a real dream team.
GH: Beginning in October 2019, we began styling music videos, doing things like material sourcing, set decoration, and costumes. [Eventually], we decided to start our own small production company, MotherTwin, because we call each other Mother and Twin, LOL. We’re credited on several music videos with musicians like Liam Kazar, Andrew Sa, NNAMDÏ, Finom (Formerly OHMME), Nico Segal, and with local directors Glam Hag, Jesse Morgan Young, and Austin Vesley. We designed the costuming for a live Kate Bush theatrical tribute called “Full Bush” directed by Young starring Finom, Alex Grelle, and Darling Shear.
On how their process and practice have been influenced by one another:
krf: Gurtie has helped me to trust my instincts and abilities. In moments of self doubt, Gurtie steps in and pushes me to keep going. Our skill sets are so wonderfully matched: where I lack, Gurtie seems to be overflowing with knowledge. I learn something new with every project. They really give me permission to express my ideas and encourage me to go above and beyond.
GH: More than anything kate has helped me to quiet my imposter syndrome. She is always encouraging me (us) to keep pushing through and learn more, often to great effect! As a self-taught clothing designer, I’ve always drafted patterns on flat surfaces. kate really held my hand through fears of using dress forms and creating garments from draping. It blew my mind to learn from her that another way of doing things can yield such dynamic results.
On the songs that soundtrack their relationship:
krf: Momma’s Place by Róisín Murphy—oh geez, I know exactly what their answer is going to be here.
GH: Girl Blunt by Leikeli47, mostly because her streaming service’s algorithm thinks she loves it. She doesn’t. It plays constantly, cracks me up every time!
…and one more thing:
krf: Imposter syndrome is real, but Gurtie always validates me and pushes me to trust my ideas and abilities. It was just a few short months ago, we were out sourcing garments and I just shouted: “Gurtie, I’m an artist!” Of course their response was, “Duh you freak…what are you talking about?!” But it was the first time I truly FELT like an artist, even after years of making/creating/school/etc. I attribute that to Gurtie’s love and support. They just bring out the best in me in every way.
GH: [to kate] I love you so much! I have more fun with you than anyone else. You are my Mother and I am your Mother. Let’s stay maternal forever!
About the Author: Tempestt Hazel is a curator, writer, and co-founder of Sixty Inches From Center. She spends her time working alongside artists, organizers, grantmakers, and cultural workers to explore solidarity economies, cooperative models, archival practice, and systems change in and through the arts. You can see more of her editorial, curatorial, and other projects at tempestthazel.com.