Kerry Mott pours hundreds of hours and thousands of pieces of duct tape into her work
By Adam Kulikowski | Photography by Casey Martin
Vibrant colors. Eye-popping contrast. Beautifully-crafted works of art.
Gettysburg’s Kerry Mott is an internationally-known artist. Her work graces the walls of Ripley’s Believe It or Not—and a number of locations in Gettysburg. Her craft is unique, something you don’t see every day.
“There are many talented artists out there in the world, but few have done what [Mott] has done,” says long-time friend Rajiv Sivendran. “Great artists in the past have often succeeded by mastering new mediums (marble, oil, new paints, various types of canvas) before other talented artists of the same age. I believe [Mott] has been successful because apart from her passion, her art is entirely differentiated from other art out there.”
At Knob Hall Winery in Gettysburg, Mott explains. Her artwork hangs on the walls along a set of tables. Bold colors. Iconic Gettysburg scenery. Recreations of iconic paintings.
Her medium? Duct tape. Yes, duct tape. The stuff you see holding the bumper on a vehicle that’s logged a few too many miles. The stuff that fixes ripped chairs. The stuff that holds things together—the stuff that creates fine art.
She’s not crafting purses or bags, a trend you may have seen recently. Although that is how she got her start at Gettysburg High School. As her bag designs became more intricate, she quickly transitioned to a two-dimensional platform.
Now, she’s making finely crafted artwork—portraits and abstracts, of everything from animals to scenery. Her creativity shines in each.
“I like the freedom in it because it’s not always a success when I make something,” Mott says. “Sometimes I spend hours making something and I don’t really like it. But, I like the freedom in trying different things that I haven’t seen done before.”
Her works take dozens of hours of diligent planning and creation time to complete, but the final product is well worth every painstaking detail. “It’s a traditional form of art done with an unusual medium,” says Maria Melocchi, a friend and owner of Mott’s artwork. “I admire her ability to create photo-realistic pieces, and the patience and dedication it takes is amazing.
Mott’s journey to becoming a full-time duct tape artist is equally engaging. Mott, 30, attended college with the goal of becoming a doctor.
“I’ve always been the creative type,” Mott says. “I went to college and was a neuroscience major, so I didn’t have any time for art really. After college, I was considering going to med school. I took the MCATs, then I really didn’t want to be a doctor. So, I went back to something I really enjoyed doing: my duct tape art,” she laughs.
Instead of seeing patients or clocking hours in the lab, her days are spent binging on her craft—spending hour after hour cutting and placing tiny square after tiny square of color onto a canvas—limited only by the range of duct tape colors.
Before she begins each piece, she plots on paper what her creation will look like. The sketch guides her work, providing a blueprint to the colors, shapes, and patterns she’ll need to replicate with her unique medium.
Piece by piece, her work comes to life. The colors—all different shades of duct tape—are not painted or manipulated in any way.
She’s meticulous in how the pieces are assembled. “I’m a perfectionist in that they have to be either parallel or perpendicular to each other,” Mott says. “I get a general size that I like all the pieces to look from afar.”
The finished product has a similar look to tiled art. The detail from afar is mesmerizing.
It’s also caught the eye of the internationally known Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Mott’s work, including pieces depicting former U.S. President Barrack Obama and “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” host Stephen Colbert, is routinely picked up by the curiosity-capitalizing entertainment establishment. It’s just one of the places she’s successfully pitched her work.
She glances across the seating at the winery. “I did a tiger piece for Ripley’s,” Mott says of her favorite piece. “I just really loved the texture in it and how it came out.”
She reaches for her phone to share another example. “I really love the landscape of this image,” Mott says of a photo of the iconic bean in Chicago on her phone. “There were so many really small pieces of tape. What I like about this one is that not only is it colorful but there are a lot of different shapes in there.”
It’s a trademark of Mott’s work—just one element of an artist’s journey that’s far from complete.