Friday, December 23, 2016

Elizabeth Kuth Artist Talk Provides Deeper Understanding of Abstract Expressionism

Wednesday evening Elizabeth Kuth gave an "artist talk" about her abstract paintings currently on display at Studio 3 West, one of the newest gallery spaces in Downtown Duluth. The paintings discussed were from her 2014-2016 series titled "Ritual Forms."

Drew Digby welcomed everyone and made a few introductory remarks about the space. In addition to showcasing artists' work, Studio 3 West will be used for helping artists to develop in their careers. He then introduced Elizabeth Kuth, whose work I have found inspiring since I first discovered it.

Ms. Kuth began by sharing that after her parents died she committed to devoting her next ten years to her work as an artist. She also listened to women artists and focused on mentoring women. At one time her life was about doing, but at this time in her life she needed to listen and pay attention more.

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EK described her approach to painting. It is something akin to automatic painting in which things emerge as she paints. Some of the themes include women being victimized and encounters with nature.*

For EK painting is about paint. Identifying with it. Another key concept, she said, is overcoming the fear of destroying something good.

In her work EK gives a lot of attention to form. Some of her earlier paintings were displayed on the west wall of the gallery space and showed a lot of color interplay. In her more current work she downplays color and uses values instead so that form could dominate. Having become overwhelmed with form and color she moved toward a reductionism, cutting out the expressive use of color.

A little further in her talk she addressed issues like how a viewer enters a picture and interacts with it. She also addressed the various kinds and features of forms – circular, tubular, curvular, edges – as well as the manner in which thickness and texture of the surface produces different effects. Ultimately, she noted that destruction is as much a part of the process as creation. For artists who get paralyzed by the fear of messing something up if they make one more mark, this is a liberating secret.

Her early work incorporated a greater infusion of color.

After discussing her process she invited us to contribute to the conversation about the various pieces.

Touched by the Medium

Ms. Kuth says she paints from the gut. The process of painting, for her, is a very primal activity. "I learn about myself as I paint," she said. It's a very determined process for finding out more about yourself.

The respondents discussed various features of the work, including the sense of movement in a painting, and the feeling of being immersed in a piece.

A highlight of the chat came at this point when EK shared that a special feature of abstract expression is that by not finishing a piece off -- by this I mean completing all the details so as to give perfect definition of the objects in a paint, such as "This is a horse" and "This is a dog with her pups" -- the viewer is able to engage it and finish it by making their own interpretations. New contemporary work frequently keeps imagery obscure. Mystery is part of the engagement. Viewing the work is a form of surrender.

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Many of the exhibitions in local galleries include artist talks. It can be a rewarding way to learn more about our local artists as well as how and why they do what they do. In addition to art openings, which are celebratory in nature and draw crowds, you may want to add artist talks to your art appreciation regimen. They are usually more intimate affairs and highly informative. Life is for learning.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Immerse yourself. 

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