My most notable instructor, for a term or so, was Jack Portland when he taught briefly at Lewis & Clark College.
Abstract expressionists may all have the desire to share the interactive process of developing a painting that best captures “the moment” but each has their own approach to sharing that visually.
What makes Portland-based artist Kathryn Hanson’s art so visually intriguing and extraordinary is that her process and approach takes a month to complete. A process by which layers of paint of different viscosities are added on top of the initial layer and placed to dry for a month. The finished pieces then glow through one another like acetate layers and allow the artwork to take the look of enameled tiles. Not knowing the final outcome, there is something quite literally, exciting about her art, which speaks between the contrasts of the organic and artificial worlds.
As our environment becomes digitized, tame, domesticated, manageable, reminders of our true world, the analog, the unexpected are desirable. Through much experimentation, Kathryn has been able to perfect this technique and make these interactive paintings using acrylic paints on wood, paper and linen. As each painting dries, it opens up to reveal the natural undulations of energy and color in its natural form and environment. As abstractions, each piece is meditative and represents different aspects to different people, and certain aspects may appear to change over time.
Born in 1956 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Kathryn’s father was an officer in the service and her mother taught in the base elementary school when her family was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. After years of traveling throughout Europe, she returned to the U.S. in 1961. Having received paints in lieu of crayons to play with as a child, Kathryn learned about elements of design, color, line and technique from her grandmother, who painted impressionistic oil paintings of landscapes and portraiture. She received a more formal training in art classes in her teens, studying graphic and line work, block printing and positive and negative space. Motivated by people, natural and contrived events and theoretical physics – all which are synergetic to her art – Kathryn believes that “Now is inspiring. It is a moment in time that we all share. It is singular, and before you can acknowledge it, that moment is mere history.” Beginning to paint large impressionistic pieces and block prints in the 80s, Kathryn began to do more abstract work after she felt that her art didn’t express the freedom she associated with painting. Once her additive materials became available on the market, she began to experiment and modify acrylic paints as she does with her work today. Soft-spoken, intelligent and highly introspective in person, Kathryn’s main method to maintain focus is her playlist, which ranges from experimental to electroacoustic music. Of course, because some of her work appears to be poured, many people think she is inspired by Pollack, de Kooning, Frankenthaler, Hayter or even Kandinsky. “Perhaps, but not at a conscious level,” says Kathryn, who believes it is important to make art without feeling the need to repeat what others have done. “It is more difficult than most imagine to have a truly unique idea, and it’s why I don’t allow for much visual input from other artists.” Though Kathryn avoids attending museums and art shows exhibiting works like that of Pollack or Franknethaler, she is still thankful to a long heritage of artists whose works have made abstract expressionistic work accessible to non-artists and have inspired everyone, quite literally, through their actions.