Kathryn Brill looks at some of her work hanging at her home studio in Bath on April 9, 2024. Brill makes mixed media assemblage under the name Kharris B and has her first solo exhibition at Meetinghouse Arts Gallery in Freeport this month. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Kathryn Brill grinned as she opened the latest package to arrive at her home in Bath. She plunged her hands into the box and emerged with the deconstructed valves of a trumpet. This shipment came from a guy in Texas who sells horn instrument parts on eBay.

“Oh man, look at that,” she said, unwrapping a second piece and a third. “I’ll start with that tomorrow.”

Brill, who makes art under the name Kharris B, has made stained glass, built furniture and collaged over the years. But it is her latest creative pursuit – mixed media assemblage – that has prompted her first ever solo exhibition at Meetinghouse Arts Gallery in Freeport from Friday through April 28. She is as much a treasure hunter as she is an artist, and she wants to make things that inspire the same sense of wonder she feels when she sees a particularly iridescent piece of metal that is catching the light in the Walgreens parking lot.

“I want you to feel like a kid when you look at this stuff,” Brill, 64, said.

Being in Brill’s studio does feel like being a kid in a candy store. It is chock-full of loot she has collected, but the bits and bobs are all organized into neat compartments. One box contains models of teeth that she found in the attic of a house that was once a dentist office. Another is labeled “moss” and full of deep green earth. She has drawers full of broken glass in every color, boxes of gears, a shelf of old lamps, a couple violins in the corner.

“It’s kind of cool that I can know where I have the coyote teeth,” Brill said.

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Brill opens up some of the drawers she stores her seaglass in at her home studio in Bath. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Brill sources her materials everywhere – on the sidewalk, eBay and Facebook Marketplace, at flea markets and estate sales, from friends who know her penchant for collecting. She usually doesn’t know how she will use a piece when she sticks it in her pocket, but she ultimately combines her finds in layered scenes. (She likes layers. In her day job, she arranges bedding for marketing photo shoots.) Brill has been a collector of odds and ends for a long time, but her interest in assemblage developed in recent years. The exhibition will include 60 pieces that explore different themes, such as disquiet, and textures, such as paper and metal.

“I want people to look at a combination of things I put together and maybe not see everything right away,” she said. “Curiosity, I think, is one of the coolest, youngest emotions you can have. I just want somebody to look at something and keep looking.”

Look at “Time,” for example. You’ll see a clock face, a piece of driftwood, seed pods that look like tentacles. Lean in closer, and you’ll realize the piece also includes a dozen clock hands and tiny beads that look like skulls. (She loves horror movies.) “Bridging” has an obvious camera lens that inverts the viewer’s reflection, but a glimpse from the side reveals hidden mirrors as well. “Perception” is made out of camera lenses, tiny gears, sheet music and illustrations of eggs from an old birding book. Brill described a component of “Barometer”: “This was a piece of wire I found in the gutter, but I liked the shape.”

Brill and her husband, Ken Brill, laugh as they talk in her home studio in Bath. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

In the picture of Brill’s work, her husband is an important piece. She makes the art, and he does the rest. A retired engineer, he is developing new skills in marketing. He set up her website, did outreach to galleries, planned this exhibition, ordered the posters and labels and hung nearly three dozen signs in four towns to advertise it.

“I just love her work so much, and I love her so much,” Ken Brill, 66, said.

“He’s truly the only reason this is happening,” his wife said. “I generate stuff, and that’s my way of breathing. I’m sure part of his way of breathing is getting stuff out of the house, but he’s been so supportive and so ready to help me in any way that he can.”

The parts, after all, make the whole.

Correction: This story was updated at 7:24 p.m. on April 20, 2024, to correct the address where the exhibit is located and the hours that it is open to the public.


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