"Color, Light & Spirit"

Reviews

• 2011 Smart, Paul. "Painting in the West." Woodstock Times, Oct 13, 2011
Katharine McKenna paints Western Landscapes. And yet she's a Western landscape painter only as much as Robert Motherwell's a Provincetown landscape painter, or Paul Gauguin's a painter of the South Seas.
"I'm a Fauvist," the soft-spoken buy incessantly hard-working McKenna - who opens an exhibition of new works at the Woodstock Framing Gallery this Saturday, October 15th - says of her increasingly colorful and nearing-abstract oil on canvas and paper paintings.

Make that a neo-Fauvist, we add, referencing the neo-everything that defines our post-modern era.

McKenna grew up out West and returns there from her longstanding home here in Woodstock every summer. The landscapes that draw her back, year after year, painting after painting, are more often than not saturated in memories, of the family she grew up in, or the one she's now nurturing. They are safe spaces from which she can explore worlds of interior emotion through worlds of color and shape, worlds of pure paint. "I'm doing more and more work right in the field, she says, explaining something ineffable in her latest works, which feel both looser and more concentrated than what we witnessed McKenna creating just a couple of year ago. "I never rework the sketch I start right there on the canvas. That is it…There's a lot of faith involved. I feel like a conduit."

Multiple takes on the same Colorado mountain, or Wyoming or Montana fieldscapes, take on a world of different moods and textures. McKenna explains how, when she comes back to each piece, they conjure whole stories concerning the things going through her mind, or happening in her life, as she painted them.

Which is what all great art tends to do, in the end, making something general out of the specific - which in turn hits specific sparks within the tinderbox of an individual audience's soul.

Color and Sky: The Spirit of Big Sky Country, a mix of very recent and some older pieces, has a surprising breadth to it, as a result. I note a move surprising breadth to it, as a result. I note a move towards pure abstraction…which McKenna acknowledges.

She also brings up the side projects she's undertaken of late to keep her creativity every-fueled in new ways. Such as the making, and interior decorating (right down to wall paintings), of a giant doll house; and a more recent move into quilting. "I don't need to do dark paintings," she says, "Because I change, my work changes."

And that Western thing, we ask again…"I've never considered myself a Western painter," K.L. McKenna - who now shows all over the nation, as well as out West, says. "I'm a painter who paints in the West."

The Western exposure of Saugerties artist Katherine McKenna

• 2009 Brunner, Betsey. "How others see us." Arizona Daily Sun, Jan 18,2009
McKenna's Little Colorado River 1, AZ, a 24-by-28-inch oil showing a muddy river winding through a verdant canyon, uses her crayon-rich colors to express the excitement of the scene. As the youngest and the most abstract of the three painters in this exhibit, her paintings celebrate the warm color and dynamic structure of the landscape.

• 2009 Stanley, J. "NY artists capture the Colorado Plateau in 'Painted Journeys' exhibit." Arizona Republic, Jan 9, 2009
McKenna's work is abstract and visually energetic, characterized by texture and bold brushstrokes. She uses striking colors and somewhat stylized shapes to present a dynamic vision of the land. Her choice of color is based on her emotional and intuitive response to the landscape.... In many ways, her work is reminiscent of Fauvists like Matisse and Derain.

• 2008 Mountain, M. "Museum of Northern Arizona announces 'Painted Journeys Exhibit." Gateway to Sedona, Dec 13, 2009
Her expressionistic colors and dynamic landscape shapes present her vibrant and energetic vision.

• 2009 Brunner, Betsey. "How others see us." Arizona Daily Sun, Jan 18,2009
McKenna's Little Colorado River 1, AZ, a 24-by-28-inch oil showing a muddy river winding through a verdant canyon, uses her crayon-rich colors to express the excitement of the scene. As the youngest and the most abstract of the three painters in this exhibit, her paintings celebrate the warm color and dynamic structure of the landscape.

• 2009 Stanley, J. "NY artists capture the Colorado Plateau in 'Painted Journeys' exhibit." Arizona Republic, Jan 9, 2009
McKenna's work is abstract and visually energetic, characterized by texture and bold brushstrokes. She uses striking colors and somewhat stylized shapes to present a dynamic vision of the land. Her choice of color is based on her emotional and intuitive response to the landscape.... In many ways, her work is reminiscent of Fauvists like Matisse and Derain.

• 2008 Mountain, M. "Museum of Northern Arizona announces 'Painted Journeys Exhibit." Gateway to Sedona, Dec 13, 2009

Her expressionistic colors and dynamic landscape shapes present her vibrant and energetic vision.

• 2009 Cassai, Mary. "Three Eastern Artists and one Western Museum Create the Perfect Storm." Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, April, 2009, pp. 53-56
McKenna makes brilliantly colored, stylized interpretations of the Western landscape. Her paintings suggest the influence of Cézanne, early Fauves such as Matisse and Dufy, and, above the canyon floor 5,000 feet below. In the upper half of the painting, the muddy brown Colorado River meanders in and out among these geological forms.

By contrast, strongly defined green vegetation on horizontal planes of ruddy gold farmland creates an ordered beauty in McKenna's Sacred Peaks, Leupp, AZ. In depicting this place sacred to Navajo worship, the artist appears to use this treatment out of reverence for the spiritual. Plants swaying rhythmically in the foreground set the painting in motion and lead our eye toward larger growth in the middle distance, where branches rise like arms in praise. These are mountains sacred to the Navajo, who must always live in sight of them. Not only do these hills supply life-giving water with their melting snows, but they also lift hearts to the Creator because they are so near heaven. McKenna's colors are particularly striking here: The gold of the volcano's foreground, its shape articulated by brushstrokes of crimson, its dark maw filled with banked fire, and the royal-blue peak with ridges formed by delicate dark blue strokes and hidden ravines caught by the sun - all set against a sky of light-blue verticals."

• 2008 Cassai, Mary. "Painted Journeys," Western Art Collector Magazine, December, 2008, pp. 118-121
A colorist in the manner of early 20th century Fauves like Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, Katharine McKenna is an expressionist who paints what she see with the mind's eye. In McKenna's piece Navajo Mountain Road, Utah, the color mix of the road diagonal, the brush, and the yellow field lead the eye to the mountain mass itself, a golden icon crowned in cobalt blue. It takes a close look to discover another treasure: images - wigwams, an abstract face, a figure on all fours - cut into the facets of the rock.

• 2002 Pauline Uchmanowicz. "Kingston's thriving art community," Catskill Mountain Guide Magazine, November, 2002. pp. 96 - 100

...Not be missed in the Uptown Kingston portion of tour 2002 was ... McKenna's own studio.... Her vibrant oil on canvas paintings capture western vistas - the buttes of Wyoming and landscapes of Montana - in burnt red, orange, yellow, and green reminiscent of Gauguin's impressions of Tahiti. Partially a plein air painter, McKenna begins many pieces on location with raw under paintings, broad, figurative brushstrokes rendered in Prussian blue against ochre-sienna tinged back color. Though she holds a master's degree in Industrial Design from Pratt, her undergraduate study of native American artifacts more openly seeps into pieces such as Paradise Valley and Flat Tops Wilderness.

• 2002 Dakota Lane. "Zen in a few forms. Art as a mind-expanding experience," Almanac, March 2002
...I have been following McKenna's career for about a decade and find that with these works she has made an exciting breakthrough in terms of originality and clarity of vision. She has always conveyed a soft and joyful sense of light through form and color, and in this show she goes beyond harmony to exuberant symphonies.

• 2002 Mary Cassai. "Strong fauve exhibit on display in Woodstock," Daily Freeman, March 15, 2002

...For another strongly fauve exhibit, walk two or three doors west to the Kleinert/James Art Center, 34 Tinker Street for K.L. McKenna's Color Harmonies of the West. In some respects McKenna's work is more strongly fauve than Avery's. In one painting after another of these western landscapes Boyer Ranch, Savery Creek, WY (2000); Rocky Mt Rain, CO (2001), for instance - one finds the fauve exuberance for life, complete with purple tree trunks and blue barns. 
But there is something else here. There's a hint of Paul Cezanne, and his preoccupation with form and mass, in McKenna's fascination with the structural starkness of these land formations. It appears in works like Farmland with Buttes (1995) and in Chimney Rock, Shell, WY (1999)...

• 1996 James G. Shine. "Fine Artwork Displayed Locally," Daily Freeman Preview Section, May 24, 1996
...Favoring a brighter than bright palette, McKenna has marked influences of the French Impressionists, the Fauves, the Pointillists and even the Spanish Zuloaga. But the end result is one of her very own person. The work is unmistakably McKenna. Subjects range from nudes to still lifes to majestic scenes from Colorado and Wyoming, where she spent much of her childhood accompanying her father, a paleontologist on research expeditions...
She favors all shades of blue. This is also the case with her still lifes, scrumptious renditions of floral compositions perhaps surrounded by a plethora of the most unexpected objects. She is, at least for the time

being, a champion of figurative styles and her production is pleasing to the eye and phenomenally interesting, which thankfully carries her way past the merely decorative mark....



• 1993 Gerald Horn. "Splendid mentor," Woodstock Times, July 14, 1993
...Kingston, 1993. The Gallery at Park West, Hurley Avenue, is showing 51 pieces of work by Nick Buhalis, spanning three decades as well as a selection of works by people he taught and inspired over the course of those years. A major task to integrate a show of such size and scope, but the 79-pieces-in-all hold together, a true accomplishment by gallery directors Doug Alderfer and Judy Abbot....

• 1992 Dakota Lane. "Figure times four," Woodstock Times, September 10,1992
...Katharine McKenna is a supreme colorist, whose lightly applied, vivid pastels give dense life to her puzzle-like works. Sharp black outlines delineate form while changes of light and dark are depicted through studiously variant colors. In "Still Figure with Life," a voluptuous reclining pregnant woman projects an inner-directed state of sweet meditation, with her eyes closed and hand resting on her belly. A pregnant form is echoed, in silhouette, elsewhere in the work, as part of this subjectively shifting picture plane. Every separate form-sometimes discernible as specific objects, sometimes an abstract geometric- can be viewed as an extension of something else, with neither figure or environment taking precedence over the other. She presents a flat, layered, sliding dimension, her works like bright paper collages, the elements receding and popping out, depending on where her symphonic play of color draws the eye.



• 1991 Lei Isaacs. "'Study to become great' - Buhalis pupils eschew mediocrity at Kingston School of Art," Woodstock Times, April 15, 1991
...Any display of works by student artists demonstrates the influence and skill of the instructor as much as the talent and potential of the students. This is abundantly clear in the first of two displays of works by the students of Nicholas Buhalis, concluding a month long run this Friday, August 16 at the Kingston School of Art, downstairs at 37 North Front Street in the Stockade area. The exhibition includes paintings by 25 pupils of Buhalis, who have been studying with him for the past one to five years. Buhalis believes his teaching technique allows his students to become proficient in their chosen media in six months, after which they can devote their creative energies to developing their individual skills and visions. A first impression of the exhibition is that it encompasses a wide variety of subjects, styles and levels of ability. Closer viewing, however, shows there are strong basic similarities underlying this seeming variety. All of the works show emphasis on the use of color. Some students express this boldly, by use of vibrant primary colors, while others stress a strongly monochromatic color scheme. A majority of the works on display express light values in boldly applied patches of bright color, giving the works the appearance of a patchwork quilt. Also, many of the students delineate their works with bold outlines, frequently combined with a stylized treatment of the subject occasionally reminiscent of early works by Picasso...