Although his dad may be a Cooperstown insider, when it comes to art, Nate Katz is a fitting outsider.
Katz, whose “Obsessive Construction” show debuts at the Smithy Center for the Arts on Monday, has turned his fascination with strip malls into works of art.
“This is pure folk art or outsider art,” said his father, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz. “I love them. To a small degree, I am sad when he sells them, but then again, good for him.”
Nate, who will turn 23 on Aug. 30, has hyperlexia, a form of autism marked by precocious reading skills but limited comprehension. Unlike some on the autism spectrum, he has never had a problem with speaking. He talks, but not always coherently.
In some ways, he is like a child. He loves Cartoon Network, for instance, and another of his obsessions is the television show Johnny Test. But his intelligence is on an adult level, and he has a 2012 degree from The State University College at Cobleskill in graphic design. He also graduated from Cooperstown Central School in 2009.
His strip mall artwork began in 2009 too, a product of homesickness for his family’s Chicago roots. It was 2003 when they left the suburban town of Lincolnshire, northwest of the city, to move to Cooperstown. A few years later, Nate began to obsessively draw retail outlets from his youth.
The drawings are outlined in ink and filled in with colored pencil. Sometimes they are based on real strip malls, usually from the Chicago suburbs, and drawn with amazing accuracy from memory. When his family visits their old home, he is consumed with new inspirations, based on what stores have been added to what shopping centers. Locations of bathrooms are very high on his list of concerns and often pop up in his drawings.
Other times, the work he produces is based on his imagination.