“Ultimately, my work springs from direct experience. And so much of my experience is rooted in nature. Or, rather, the place where nature and spirituality converge. I’ve been around the world, and Jackson Hole is my home. My paintings are profoundly affected by a life-long connection to its beauty.” ~ Kathryn Mapes Turner
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Jackson artist Kathryn Mapes Turner’s new show, By the Light of the Sun, will be on exhibit at Trio Fine Art September 7-24, 2011. An artist’s reception takes place September 8th 2011 (Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival Opening Day), 5-8:00 pm. Turner will talk about her inspirations at 6:30 pm. The public is invited to attend this free event. Turner will be available at Trio Fine Art for the length of the exhibition. By the Light of the Sun showcases Turner’s newest collection of spectacular regional landscapes; this season, Turner’s muses are Jackson Hole’s signature aspen and cottonwood trees. Enchanted by cottonwoods’ forms and the aspen’s delicate colors, Turner explores the spaces these trees occupy, as well as the relational space between them.
Having grown up on her family’s ranch, in the middle of Grand Teton National Park, Turner recognizes sublime natural beauty. Resplendent mountains, sparkling waters and a profusion of wildlife informed her. The first girl born into a ranching family in 60 years, she experienced mountain seasons as they turned from icy, monochromatic winters to summers exploding with wildflowers, azure skies and silvery sage. Working with the land every day, Turner developed a powerful initiative and aesthetic. The need to use her hands, a powerful work ethic and a deep love for nature’s wonders converged.
Kathryn Turner became an artist. But despite nature’s pervasiveness, it’s possible Turner’s biggest influence was a store-bought poster.
“Over my bed was a poster of Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” I think about how someone had used paints, brushes and canvas to create something so moving, I gazed at it every day.” Turner believes that if she is going to create anything material, she must do it to the very best of her ability.
Executing such work is a huge responsibility. As she works, Turner stays in contact with her own powerful sense of spirituality. “Whatever the concept of God or “oneness” is, that is where beauty, truth and goodness originate,” Turner says. “I want those to be the source of my work. In that sense my paintings come from another place, and not from me.”
Turner also views herself–and other artists–as part of art history’s continuum. With every painting, she strives to transmit a collective idea of sublime universal beauty. “We are a service industry,” says the artist. “I am positioned on an eternal timeline of artists, making contributions to the world. I feel I have a great opportunity and privilege by participating in the movement; it’s an incredible honor.”
It’s almost impossible not to compare Turner’s recent, tempestuous portraits of the Tetons to the paintings of the 19th century British Romanticist William Turner. Romanticism has been described as a movement so varied, it is difficult to define. A romantic herself, Kathryn Turner paints from the heart. Steering away from a collective tendency to render the Tetons inpainterly, dense layers of bright colors Turner recently painted the Grand Teton and its neighboring summits as dark and looming. These Tetons are primordial. Sweeping towards the heavens, their silhouettes are smoky and golden. Brushwork is less visible, and a holy luminosity prevails.
Contemporary Western artists often argue that the Tetons have been painted so often, any new portrayals are redundant. Turner’s recent panoramas prove that theory wrong.
“If I avoid painting the Tetons for fear of their being trite, it would be dishonest,” Turner says. “I’ve grown up with them, have always been near them, always been taken with them. How can one not be? The mountains are our central force. You can’t deny them. I need to address them in my work; I have a deep relationship with them.”
And, like the Romanticists, Turner changes up her painting style, moving on once she’s explored a subject. For her, pushing the envelope swells experience, and Turner points out that throughout art’s history, art changes. It has to, in order to remain interesting and significant. She never knows how a show will take shape, and that’s how exciting work happens.
Turner’s paintings are as much about materials as they are subject and soul. Textures and paint behavior are intriguing. Working with paint is an end in itself. As she talks about paint, she brings out a small oil of a sun splashed window box, spilling over with roses, painted in Italy.
“Transparency versus opaqueness. Thinness and thickness, bright versus dull. Oil paints give all of that, I’m in love with manipulating paint,” Turner emotes. The glazes, the scumbling—sometimes it’s about brushstrokes, sometimes it’s about drawing. Negative and positive spaces. It’s like playing in a sandbox, the possibilities are endless!”
When a painting is complete, it’s time to let it go.
“Letting go of a painting is like letting go of a child; you have to let it out into the world. The story of Pygmalion is largely about not being able to let go. If you try too hard to controla process, it won’t flow. The paintings need to do their work in the world. Preparing work for the gallery is great because it gives me a deadline. The paintings I have the hardest time parting with are the ones most important to release. I had a teacher tell me never to call myself an artist. To call myself a painter. ‘You are a painter,’ she said. ‘Others can decide if what you make is truly art!’ So that is it. I am supposed to show up, do my best, and create from the heart.”