Artist Katherine Strause’s “Fierce Women” on show at UAFS Gallery

Artist Katherine Strause’s “Fierce Women” on show at UAFS Gallery

Katherine Strause has been a little busy lately. She’s just been hired as executive director of the Arts and Science Center of Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff, and her “Fierce Women: Paintings by Katherine Strause” remains on exhibition at the UAFS Gallery of Art and Design through March 8. According to her artist statement, Strause started her work with found photographs of women who are “experiencing a moment of clarity and complete independence. … [A] focus on the expressive application of paint and extravagant use of color transforms the black-and-white snapshots into dynamic, energetic paintings,” she says.

For this Q&A, Strause referred What’s Up! to an online chat with Philip Mayeux, creator of The Arkansas Art Scene Blog. It has more than 180 artist interviews, Mayeux says, available at Strause’s answers are excerpted here with permission.

Q. Where do you find the old photographs you use for inspiration?

A. Originally my aunt, who lives in Muscatine, Iowa, sent me a box FULL of cast-off photos from the 1920s through the 1960s. Aunt Maureen had worked for years at the Bamford Photography Studio in Muscatine. The shop was closing, and they were getting rid of things. The box had come to Bamford from a family who had lost track of stories and identities of the people in the photos; although they were distant family, they didn’t see the need to keep them but gave them back to the photo studio where many of the photos were taken. The images were precious at one point but had lost their connection. We see this all the time in thrift stores, where you can find old family albums and loose photos.

I spent a lot of time sorting through hundreds of photos from that box. As I did, I realized that this was one woman’s personal collection, representing all of her friends and family throughout her lifetime. People’s faces appeared over and over again at different stages in their lives, and I began to identify with the individuals and give them stories.

Q. Talk about your later formal art training.

A. After graduating high school, I had a slew of jobs — driving a semi-truck, waiting tables, paying insurance claims. I lived in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Little Rock. Within a couple of years I realized if I was going to find a job I loved that I needed to get in school. I was living and working in Little Rock, so I enrolled at UALR. I graduated with a BA in Painting from UALR and then went on to a three-year MFA degree in Painting from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

Q. Getting back to your art, you certainly do not hesitate in having the viewer confront the social issue of that day?

A. The main reason I do like to look back and use images from another time in history is that things can look eerily similar to the history being made today.

Q. Would you talk about your painting technique? You use a very wet canvas?

A. Oil paint can give you a depth of color and flexibility that is beautiful all on its own. Over the years I have developed ways of layering saturated color with brushstrokes with wet-on-wet application, and it has increased the vibration and visual movement in the work.

Q. Has teaching and being constantly around young art students affected your approach to painting or what you want to accomplish with your works?

A. Being around young art students reminds me to be hopeful! It also reminds me that anything in the world can be accomplished, especially developing a skill through practice. Every one of those students come in, and all I can see in them is pure potential. All they have to do to be successful is put in the time and attention. Focus is hard but worth the outcome. I’m not sure how factual the 10,000 hours of practice theory is, but the basis is true. ANYTHING they do a lot, they will get better at, and that applies to me. Practice makes the master.



‘Fierce Women: Paintings by Katherine Strause’

WHEN — 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, through March 8

WHERE — UAFS Gallery of Art and Design, 535 N. Waldron Road in Fort Smith

COST — Free


Categories: Galleries