Thursday, July 9, 2015

Recollecting Twenty Years of Painting

Looking back on 20 years:  Echo, 14 x 22", watercolor/pastel on paper
paintings by Kathy Rees Johnson
MS Rezny Studio/Gallery
903 Manchester Street
Distillery District
Lexington, Kentucky
7-7-15 to 8-8-15

Recollection is my DIY retrospective exhibit and thus it gives me the opportunity to look back (and forward!) at my work as an artist. The act of organizing the show at the MS Rezny gallery has distinguished three eras in my artistic career:

1) Beginning, falling in love with the landscape:  My first painting in 1995 (At the Shore, below) was a landscape, even though, at the time, I found landscapes rather difficult.  That same year, I began taking annual pastel workshops with Fay Moore. For the third workshop, we focused on landscapes. The combination of using an underpainting with pastel and the pastoral subject matter lit a fire under me. Painting the landscape became a natural! This joyful rendering also had the effect of improving my eye, helping me to appreciate the landscape. It was also a way to remember favorite places. One such favorite place is Lyme Park, outside of Manchester, UK, represented above in my painting, Echo. 

The first painting: At the Shore, 15 x 30", acrylic on canvas
2) Strengthening family links:  Almost a decade into my painting career, I began making paintings from old family photographs.  An odd thing happened shortly after my paternal grandmother died; my father and grandfather arrived at my home with boxes of old family photographs. I did not question why they brought them to me, but I'm glad they did, because a few short years later, my father died in a tractor accident. As it turned out, that year, the theme of the annual pastel workshop was "memories". I took in photos from the family stash and realized this was a wonderful way to meet and remember my paternal ancestors.  While working on this series, my mother died and I knew that the same work could help me process my feelings around that loss, as well.

Outstanding in Their Field, 14 x 14", watercolor/pastel on paper

3) The future; sating a longing while embracing the present and past:  Making paintings from old family photographs certainly gave me an understanding that life is fleeting. We are here but a short time in this particular form. As I was approaching 60, I developed what I call my autumnal longing. There was a desire to do something new, see new sights, but also to be totally at home. How to do this? Well, I had harps that I kept strung and tuned. I realized that I could create soundscapes that could take me anywhere I wanted to go. Also, I could use music in a healing way. I enrolled in the Therapy Harp Training Program and became immersed and entranced with musical modes. This lead me to the exercise of illustrating the modes (please see my previous blogs), combining my love of creating images and making music. The final era is represented by the seven musical modes.

Going up: Mellifluous Mixolydian, Lent in Aeolian Mode, Lunar Locrian

I hope you can join me on this retrospective journey at MS Rezny Studio/Gallery! The opening reception is Friday, July 17th, 5 - 8 pm (Lexington's Gallery Hop night). On Saturdays, there will be Recollection Sessions. These are opportunities for you to come play with watercolor/pastel to create your own Recollection. All the materials are provided. There is a $25 materials fee. Please bring any photo references you might want to use. Recollection Sessions are: July 11, 18 and 25 and August 1st. Looking forward to seeing you!

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