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Artist Kathleen Werner: Making New Worlds Through Painting

Courtesy of Kathleen Werner

From an early age, artist Kathleen Werner was always on the move. Born in Tacoma, Washington, her family relocated and traveled frequently. As a result, she spent much of her childhood not only in different states but different countries.

As she noted in a recent one-on-one interview, “My father was a pilot so I spent a fair amount of time growing up in a plane, staring out the window down at the beauty of the earth. There is nothing more peaceful to me, nothing that makes me feel more blissful then sitting in awe of these natural colors and textures.”

And on top of that, Werner embraced the adventure. “I absolutely loved meeting all of the new people and having a constantly changing environment. I spoke Spanish and Mayan as my first languages, and living in Merida Mexico when I was young they would call me the ‘little ambassador’ as this tiny blond haired blue-eyed girl I would run around happily chatting with everyone.”

When she was 20 years old, Werner planted roots in Scottsdale, Arizona, opening a store called Zen. “It was a charming little place where I sold many intrigues, meditation devices, bonsais, sand gardens and we even had intuitive readers available for our patrons,” recalled Werner. And not surprisingly given the wandering nature of her youth, Werner brought in international influences. “I also had an outdoor tea garden in the back with a koi pond where I sold teas from all over the world.”

The young entrepreneur soon found that her local business would lead her on a different career trajectory. “One day, a now dear friend of mine, Mr. Joe Polish walked into the store,” recounted Werner. “He loved how I had designed the place and asked if I would consider decorating his home, I didn’t imagine it would be that much different than what I had done with the shop, something I enjoyed immensely, so I agreed. His house turned out beautifully and I had a lot of fun doing it so decided to pursue the field.”

Werner went on to do many residential designs along with commercial properties but she felt constrained by the boundaries of working within a pre-existing space, “After a while the limitations of the already built walls had me turn my eye towards architecture and eventually to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Taliesin West,” she explained.

She found the program in Scottsdale to be an eye-opening and mind-expanding experience. “Taliesin is truly a place that has you looking at the world in a way that makes you pay attention to what most people tend to blow right by. They encourage their students to sleep in the desert shelters, teaching them to feel the elements, how the natural environment around them effects the architecture they are in and begs them to improve it.”

The school’s philosophy appealed to her own personal theory of creativity. “Most art seeks to create an emotional interaction,” acknowledged Werner. “I have always looked at art as being more spherical, the more senses you can entice the better.”

Wanting to leave her “personal stamp” on the school, Werner created a permanent installation for the Frank Lloyd Wright School, an interactive art piece. “The inspiration for the Etazin chair I designed, a huge almost gyroscopic circular chair, came from a night I was sitting in Frank Lloyd Wrights private garden. He had incorporated a moon gate as a passage through the wall to the adjacent yard and I decided to sit inside of this gateway. The curve of the circle was very hammock like and I wanted to make a chair, given it needed to be quite a bit larger for comfort, that had that same cradling effect. I was naturally drawn to steel so the material was set and I really wanted to make the rings turn so one could face multiple directions, enjoying all of the beautiful views the lush landscape had to offer.”

Not one to stay put geographically or creatively, Werner decided to shift her focus to painting and move to New York. Finding a studio space in Harlem, Werner says she hermitted away and started working on her new pieces. “I had always wanted to work with paint but as some artists choose to hone and perfect their craft by recreating what is already in existence, I was far more drawn to creating something only comparable to unseen planets or new galaxies.”

Courtesy of Kathleen Werner

“My paintings are best described as ‘geotic’ art,” she revealed “I strive to achieve the feeling of peering into outer space, cracking open a geode or looking down at the earth from high above like Landsat photography. I feel as though I am making new worlds every time I complete a painting, some far off planet that is so beautiful you just can’t wait to visit.”

Being so innovative did not come easily, Werner acknowledged, “Developing this technique took a lot of trial and error, I would scrap entire paintings on a whim if they did not elicit complete excitement from me. Some would be pretty, but the difference between doing something pretty and something that makes you really excited is what makes great art. I spent the better part of a year trying new methods, creating elaborate devices to aid me in the manipulation of the canvas to get just the look I wanted. Despite what our parents or friends tell us, not everything we create is a masterpiece, you have to be willing to destroy anything you don’t deem wildly fantastic and always hold yourself to a very high standard.”

Now Werner is ready to display her work publicly and plans to do a solo pop up show in Chelsea or Soho in April. “I am very passionate about not only environmental conservation but also scientific advancement. The show will be an introduction to my artwork as well as a charity event where a large portion of the sales will go to charities aiding these important causes. After the show and throughout my career as an artist I completely intend to continue giving to these causes from any and all proceeds. The art itself is an homage to the beauty we are surrounded by, we should continue to do what we can to preserve and enhance it.”

To learn more about Kathleen Werner and her upcoming shows, visit her website and follow her @_kathleenwerner on both Twitter and Instagram where she gives sneak peeks of her work daily.

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