Since early October, Catherine Kirkland’s vibrant paintings have filled Lee’s Summit City hall with a dynamic, positive energy. The show — titled “What’s the Point?” — features seven of the artist’s recent works and will be on exhibit through mid-January.
These playful yet powerful paintings represent both a personal challenge and creative journey Kirkland began four years ago. In 2014, after two decades away from the canvas, Kirkland picked up a paint brush and this adventure began.
“When I started painting again, I focused on relearning the medium,” Kirkland said. “I had been an illustrator and worked primarily in ink and soft media for a very long time. Rediscovering painting was a challenge for me, but it was a thrill and I wanted to learn to paint again.”
Before focusing on this new life as a painter, Kirkland was an award-winning graphic artist in an analogous career that spanned more than three decades.
“My professional experience as an art director, illustrator, designer and production artist brings an artist’s maturity to my paintings. Though I’ve only been painting seriously for the last four years, my design, attention to detail, color selection and craft are results of my lifetime of experience.”
This wealth of experience provided a foundation for Kirkland as she explored her own unique visual voice. She discovered that voice in pointillism abstract pointillism.
Pointillism is a technique in which small dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image and Kirkland’s paintings can require up to 10,000 dots to complete.
Acrylic on canvas in Kirkland’s medium, and the creative decisions she makes for each canvas can be simultaneously purposeful and serendipitous.
“I’ve always enjoyed the process of coming up with a concept and designing the idea in my head,” she said. “I love the right brain process, but my technique is very left brain. Sometimes my work takes me places I didn’t foresee or plan, which is also fun.”
The exhilarating, colorful patterns and rhythm, both planned and unplanned, magnetize viewers to Kirkland’s paintings.
“I like to use color and pattern to create a journey through the painting,” she said. “I love the cheerful, bright palette I use. It’s an augmented tetradic color scheme, which is a phrase I coined. With the space on the canvas, I try to create wonder and depth in the layers. I want to entertain the eyes and create joy.
“In the current art world, I see many artists as activists and there is a lot of dark art being made. I don’t want to make political statements or buy into that darkness. I believe there are enough discourses on those topics. I want to counter that by bringing joy to my audience when they see my work. I feel have succeeded in what I was trying to accomplish if they feel that joy.”
In addition to the Lee’s Summit City Hall exhibit, Kirkland’s work has been seen in a number of shows this year, including the Lenexa City Hall Gallery and the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center. The Arts and Heritage Center exhibit was included in the Expanded Field of the OpenSpacesKC Arts Festival last summer, an event that received international recognition. In addition to exhibits, Kirkland has also completed a number of corporate and individual commissions over the past year.