Monday, August 25, 2014

A Visit with Island Lake Artist Elizabeth Kuth

A few years ago I was visiting the office of then-director of the Duluth Art Institute Kat Eldred.  While talking I became distracted (captivated) by a painting on her office wall. She said it was by an artist who lived out on Island Lake, Elizabeth Kuth, and she practically insisted I see her studio someday.

A few years passed but someday finally came. Earlier this summer I made the trek out. Here I found an artist creating a symphonies of shape, color and form under the direction of her own internal conductor. The word "impressed" is an understatement.

When I arrived that evening she first showed me the large canvases she had stored in her garage. From there we went down to her studio, which is set apart from the house. Essentially we looked at her work, moving from piece to piece, taking in the scope of her creative endeavors, frequently pausing to engage each piece. All this time she provided background on the paintings or an explanation of the problems she’d set about to resolve in each piece.

Her enthusiasm extended beyond the work to her various sources of inspiration, including the energy of horses and the mystery of deep sea monsters. What follows are sections of notes from the exchange that followed. I consider the visit to have been a privilege.

Eliabeth Kuth: This is one of my earlier ones. I just got angry and (was) using dark colors. This is one of the first ones I was doing drawing on. It’s kind of like rock painting, like prehistoric time. I am looking for simplistic form in that way. I am doing forms that are childlike or animal like. Maybe from living out here so long I have connections with nature forms.

I actually need to have a lot of quietness around me. That’s one that started it for me. Scratching marks on it… like a cave drawing.

I’ve been told my work is ethereal. I see that… It calms me down. I am so far over in a visual mind rather than a mathematical mind, so my things are about fantasy with fantasy forms. Imaginative forms come out.

* * *

This is something influencing me now. I’m making a connection with horses. Horses connect to the soul. Also this is influencing me. (She shows me a book about animals in the super deep sea.) They have a lot of mystery. A lot has a sense of birthing, or something coming out of something else and transforming it into something else.

* * *

A lot of my work is coming from the unconscious, that Karl Jungian thing…. This line is responding to this line, creating an energy that takes you that way. We’re always in constant change, and so the work is that way.

Life gets thrust upon you, and that’s the way art painting is. You thrust upon it and don’t tell it what to do.

* * *

EN: How did you become a painter?

EK: I used to draw all the time when I was a little kid, In my bedroom. There were five kids in the family. I didn’t want any conflict so I used to go to my room and draw all the time. When I got out of high school I went to a junior college and then to art school. I knew this was what I wanted to do… went to Minneapolis School of Art & Design. Then I came back here to Duluth because I didn’t have any money to carry on.

In the studio: Track lighting and three large canvases simultaneously.
So this thing of being a loner started to evolve around then. I liked to be by myself and draw. I liked to be by myself and paint. I did a lot of drawing, pen and ink things, did lithography. I was living in an apartment behind my dad’s dental business. I was doing that and working at a photography store, but that is where I found meaning.

My dad wanted me to open a gift shop downstairs in his place. I was upstairs in an apartment but his building was down below.

I got married and had two children, then took a watercolor class with Cheng Ki Chee. Did watercolor for 17 years. I taught at the Depot and adult ed classes in the area for a while.

After my divorce I went back to school. That’s when I started oil painting and printmaking. And that’s when I started to draw every day.

Do come back tomorrow to see more paintings and here the rest of her story.

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