Interview with Kathryn Arnold


Neoteric Art: Give us some background history on yourself including time spent in art school.

Kathryn Arnold: Growing up in the Midwest, we took many family vacations where we traveled across the United States. I did undergraduate work, first two years at the Kansas City Art Institute (which has an excellent Foundation program) and completed my BFA at University of Kansas, Lawrence along with my MFA there as well. I moved to California in 1999.

I am an active member of the San Francisco and Bay Area artist community. I teach studio arts and art history at the college level and in the past have also taught courses on digital art and web based applications including Flash. My work has been shown on a national scale, from New York City to Hawaii, from Los Angeles to Chicago and Kansas City and St Louis in commercial galleries, university galleries, and non-profit community art spaces. I have been written about by Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune and Raphael Rubenstein of Art in America along with many others. An image of my work has been displayed in the New York Times and my work is included in numerous public and private collections including McDonnell Douglas Corporate Collection and Bebe and Crosby Kemper (of Kemper Museum) that is today housed in the UMB Collection. Since being In San Francisco, my work has been exhibited through Jan Casey & Associates (along with others) in large architectural spaces within the Financial District and the work has been incorporated into large public collections such as Allergen in Irvine, California and Novartis on the East Coast to name but a few.

1NA: Discuss your overall work/thought process when starting a new painting (or series).

KA: The works begin spontaneously with large stains of color. I allow for intense optical mixing as the layers build up on each other with the translucent effects integrating both on canvas and in the eye. As I work, I notice a sense of personality and emotive nature developing and pursue it. In the case of my current works (2009), the overall palette/ color sensibility developed relates to times of day.

I build up the surfaces with marks. Each mark takes on a calligraphic sensibility. The individual marks create the overall field as they overlie one another and also at times, lie next to each other. I recognize the multicultural and intercultural interdependency of my technique and allow for its creation of meaning as it references the origins of mark-making.

NA: What are the differences for you between your paintings and drawings…do you prefer one over the other?

KA: My work contains two intertwining veins. One is filled with large, colorful oils on canvas. The other vein includes drawings that are black and white mixed media works on paper. Both display the density and layered mark-making that points to my artistic process and content.

I do not prefer one over the other and find that the work balances itself out. I need to work with both drawing and painting for this reason. The black and white ‘drawings’ often are more graphic and allow the viewer to clearly see distinctions of value. The color works are more complex with the weaving of the field relating both to color values along with intensities of color to create open composition. Along with that, they also work with interactions of color. This complexity I find is true to life.

kathryn_arnold_snapping_twig_48wx38hNA: Discuss your current series.

KA: Currently I am inspired by Victor Papanek’s research (MIT) as to why we/humans can appreciate paintings and are intrigued by them.

“…humans may have an imprinted preference for winding paths that provide “mystery” and “give the impression that one could acquire new information if one were to travel deeper into the scene.” This liking for winding paths, mystery, wishing to “travel deeper into a scene” has been used successfully in Japanese gardens…An argument could be made that it also informs haptic satisfaction we derive from viewing a painting…In the case of mystery, the new information is not present; it is only suggested or implied. …there is a strong element of continuity. The bend in the road, the brightly lighted filed seen through a screen of foliage – these settings imply that the new information will be continuous with and related to what has gone before.” — Victor Papanek

I am currently working with ideas of passages and implied mystery using a variety of landscape qualities, such as the large-scale horizontal format, in this set of works. The colors, textures and lighting relate to an internal or primeval sense of place and the passages of times of day that mark our existence and assist with creating this linkage. Pulling from the concept of the ‘heroic’ landscape in terms of scale (referencing Bierstadt, Moran, Cole), yet simultaneously pulling away from that cultural aspect, informs these works which incorporate large expanses of marks and color. The sense of touch (how we first experience the world – Foucault) and chaotic energy of color and marks play an important role in building up layers that function to create and encompassing, enveloping field and the bewildering space experienced in those without an implied horizon line.

2NA: Describe your painting philosophy.

KA: My paintings are a result of intuitive nonobjective processes and contain my search for a clear, precise moment of visual “magic”. At this place where everything comes together, integration occurs. Perhaps this is the magic* – the moment is ordinary yet contains this indefinable occurrence of integration – of which each is new and previously unseen. There is no end to this continual process. I love this quote from William Blake: “If the doors of perception are cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

*Note- Webster definition of magic used in artist statement: “Any mysterious, seemingly inexplicable power or influence; as, the “magic” of love.”

NA: Who and/or what has influenced your work?

KA: To me, this is a difficult question as I believe there have been and are many influences and not sure I can limit this to a reasonable amount. Perhaps one thing is the sense of loss that everyone, at one time or another, experiences and wanting to fill up that empty space. Another, the sensation I experience when viewing Robert Ryman’s works. Once, many years ago, I was able to view a large-scale exhibition of Ryman’s works at the SF MOMA and felt like I was “home”. On a down-to-earth scale, I am influenced by Robert Stanley’s work (Chicago/Michigan) – the precise compositional arrangements that match with concept. Living in the Bay Area influences my work as well as I am surrounded by fantastic artists and I see the world as completely open (I become the “disinterested viewer” — Kant). Poetry inspires me; I love Robert Creeley and haiku.

NA: Regarding your painting career, where would you like to be ten years from now?

KA: Just a week ago I was asked by one of my students about my 5-year plan. It really struck me and I was unsure what to say and I realized it would be a good thing to do. I do need a road map. For now and future, I want myself and my work to contribute to visual culture in a meaningful way.