Thursday, August 04, 2016

KATHRYN WATERS at the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville, Kentucky repost of my article.

Back in the early months of 2002, I had my first large show at Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville, Kentucky. When I drive through Kentucky, I make attempt to visit the center. Inside the center is the Anne P. Baker Gallery, which wraps around the theater, so the wall space is quite substantial. Over the years, I have dropped in to see the space, but usually I encounter group shows. However, this summer I was excited to see a solo show. I say solo, but Kathryn Waters collaborated with a poet Matthew Graham on a few pieces in the show.

Kathryn Waters is professor of art at the University of Southern Indiana. Waters displayed examples of her mastery of material and subject matter. Over half of the show was chalk pastels and the other work was large oil paintings. Her work ranged from landscape in Europe, nighttime landscapes in the US Midwest, still lives, and architectural features (particularly door fixtures).

She calls her work Narrative Realism and a recurring theme seems to be travel. All but one picture has no figures. The one painting with a person depicts a woman sleeping with her head turned away from the viewer. I thought about how all the elements of this show might relate. Door handles might be details of a trip, the landscapes might be postcard captured moments, and the still life drawings might be what is consumed on the trip. I am still a little puzzled how the two depictions of flower arrangements relate. But as one of my professors at UT Dallas said, many artists goes through a “painting a flower” phase. Maybe these arrangements were in the hotel.

The paintings were well rendered with the economy of shape and shadow, but idealized in a similar way as Edward Hopper approached realism. Photorealism is not Waters aim. The pastel drawings were rendered quite masterfully, but I thought the still life drawings had the most punch. These works were engaging a moment before the meal or drinks were consumed. I particularly noticed her skillful representation of glass and liquids. The landscapes were pretty, but I couldn’t get into them until I read the accompanying poem of Matthew Graham. The words took you on a journey, but I won’t cheapen the poem by just giving you a snippet.

When I came across the night scenes painting by Waters, I was instantly reminded of Sarah Williams works of rural houses and building at night. However, were as Waters gives you the expected iconic hotel scenes with neon lights, Williams tended to pick the unexpected subjects and make them iconic. Waters’ musing on the door fixtures was also a bit flat. I just couldn’t read a strong narrative in these works. Overall, the exhibition showed a breadth of her skill as an oil painter and pastel drawer.

If you are passing through Kentucky, check out this huge space in Madisonville. Glema Mahr Center for the Arts will have Kathryn Waters paintings and drawing up until June 17th.

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