Katheryn Holt paints memory. Her abstract paintings are infused with half-remembered landscapes. She has been documenting her interior and exterior life through painting since she was 4 years old. Growing up on Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles, in the 1950s and 1960s, her frame of visual references was formed both by horizon lines extending across a seemingly endless Pacific Ocean and the cultural influences of post-World War 2 America. While the ocean sky reflected for her endless cloud-like possibilities of escape to imagined space and distant unknown places beyond, the constraints of growing up in the McCarthy era and the decade of rebellion that followed created the push and pull of her graphic design and painting style that has continued throughout her creative life. Destination and disappearance are her running themes. The need for escape conjoins with a desire for a sense of stability and home, expressing itself in her imaginary dreamscape paintings through techniques of layering rich transparent oil color over silkscreened text from television scripts her father wrote and elusive photo imagery from her mother’s magazines of the day. Although the paintings are grounded by line and narrative imagery, a strong sense of movement and passage of time is never far from her compositions. Recently this thesis has begun to manifest in her work through painterly depictions of disappearing land and sea masses caused by global warming. The lifetime theme of memory and loss of place continues to animate and shift both hers and the viewer’s visual identification of what is real and what is imagined in the world today. Holt studied painting at the University of Southern California and graduated with a B.F.A. from Art Center College of Design. She taught at New York’s School of Visual Arts, has won awards from the Society of Illustrators, and was included in American Illustrator and Outstanding American Illustrators. She has exhibited in many solo and group shows, including eight shows at Tria Gallery, New York; national juried competitions including the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the Santa Cruz Art League, and the Bolinas Museum; and was featured in a recent display in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco. She won first place at the American Pastel Society and is part of the permanent collection in the Kunstmuseum, Hollfeld, Germany. Her work has been shown in New York, Germany, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, and California.
Forces of nature
We hold properties of the surrounding environment within us. Nature is interactive, and we are interconnected with nature. We are inseparable from the atmosphere as it moves through us. We see, we breathe, we hear, and we feel. As an artist, I feel compelled to put down in my paintings my visual perceptions of long remembered feelings about such atmospheric forces from my own life growing up on a beach, and living, as I do now, in a valley at the base of a mountain.
Environmental information cycles through us daily informing us about ourselves and our relationship with the surrounding natural world. In painting these atmospheric works on panel, I continue a dialogue about such things with myself. Transitioning hues of oil color drift across and down the panels to disappear behind horizons, falling into land and sea. The air is water, and water becomes air. The illusion of evaporation and condensation hangs in a horizontal balance above and below, only to be contained by landmass capturing its elusive shadows of light and color at the outer edges of the compositions. Dark rises to light and the light returns into the motion of tidal flow, and shoreline breaks at the water’s edge.
What we observe in our surrounding natural world we can then feel in the presence of its atmospheric flow. In sharing our observations about such phenomena with each another, we open ourselves to new ways of seeing and the possibility of a deeper understanding about how we share these powerful forces which nature holds over, around, and within us all.
Something that makes me the happiest is when friends or collectors tell me they saw something in nature that reminded them of my paintings. There can be no higher compliment than to know that I have made such a connection and that people are willing to return that gift to me.
The Long View
In this new series, I explore the relationship between memory of place and time and how it intersects with abstracted pictorial imagery.
These mixed media landscapes are rendered on wood panels. Having grown up on a beach in California, the presence of horizon lines appears in my paintings, grounding the view I remember seeing of the relationship between sky, ocean, and land.
Color and texture give language to these atmospheric compositions and described the emotions I feel when painting them. The hue of the color palette shifts top to bottom throughout each of the pieces. Deep blue blacks bubble up from below the ocean’s surface and rise, evaporating into the lightness of tinted whites of air and clouds. The softness of the graying white clouds dissipates and washes across a silver sky harkening to memories I have of rainstorms over the vast ocean. Sun colors radiate through the white precipitation forming pale pastel greens, blues, and blush tones: the colors of winter sunsets across the horizon.
Geology is ever present in and below ground. I imagine active gaseous deposits, igneous shapes, and mineral formations below the surface, which I have little or no control over. I more freely draw metallic lines and apply deep painted earth tones in the lower register of the panels to describe the idea of an unseen universe in chaos. Some of the horizontal compositions include distant views of mountains and islands, references to the valleys I have lived in, and my travels up and down the beautiful California coastline.
As my painting practice grows deeper, I experience the importance of being able to express in these works the power of visual recollection of precious views from a past that may well never come again. I meditate on this notion, and my hope is to be able to resurrect these emotions through those who see them.
A view from the past then becomes a longer view into the future.