Womanhood, identity and self-expression are all themes explored in Fayetteville artist Kat Wilson’s new exhibit Year of the Kat. The exhibit features her photography, paintings and other works at the Windgate Art & Design Gallery in Fort Smith from March 4 to 29. The reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m.

The exhibit features four new photos to her “Habitats” collection, “Warrior Women” photos, EMOJI paintings and her Selfie Thrones. The exhibit is sponsored by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

Wilson said Year of the Kat is a play on the Chinese New Year, her name and the year she spent working solely on her art. Wilson’s wife, Emily Lawson, encouraged her to take a year off of work and focus on her artwork.

“If you work all day and then come into the studio there’s a lot of room for error, as a full-time artist you get to make mistakes and fail,” Wilson said.

The “Habitats” collection features people surrounded by their belongings that tell a story of their lives. She started the project in 2004, and the collection became extremely popular. “I want people to really study and look into the art,” Wilson said. “The elements give you a clue to make you want to read into it more.”

Many of the people in the photos are friends of Wilson, but she has people commission her for photos as well.

For her “Women Warriors” collection, Wilson uses clothing that defines each woman she photographs to create armor as a visual for how strong women are. The exposed breasts of the figures in the photos are what Wilson calls “revenge titties” against the idea that women have to work harder to achieve the success of men. Her “EMOJI Paintings” add artistic flare and realism to the popular cell phone characters. Wilson organized the paintings in what she describes as a “witch” pattern to protect the environment. The “Selfie Throne” is an ornate chair seated against a backdrop of eclectic items that visitors can take pictures with.

As a child, Wilson was always interested in art, but thought she would grow up to be a painter. Both of her grandmothers were amateur photographers. She said one of her first experiences with photography was when she borrowed a camera from her grandmother to take photos of the lifeguards she worked with. It wasn’t until college that she fell in love with photography.

“I thought a long time about what I wanted to do. People didn’t think photography was a respected art, and I was so over it,” Wilson said. “I wanted to really elevate photography.”

For more of Wilson’s art visit katwilsonartist.com.