Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Katie Christiansen's Abstract Lyricism at the MAPC show

Imagine oneself out in Nature, out in the wilderness. What does one hear, see, smell, taste, or feel? The sensory engagement one experiences when one is out of doors is essentially abstract. One cannot control the 'elements' of the outdoors and the chance happenings that naturally occur. It is something outside the realm of our conscious minds' activities and the things we do to direct our own paths in the course of a day. Really, aren't we such egotists to think we can control all that we survey?

One immediately realizes upon contact with Katie Christiansen's prints, that the thing-ness and activities of our daily existence, and meetings, and schlepping kids to school, etc, all of it fades away. The concrete clarity of deadlines, getting to a job, and bill-paying, aren't what matter. Those may seem, and in fact are, important for some aspects our lives, but truly they are non-essentials.

The lyricism and multi-layered-ness of Christiansen's work grabs the viewer. Its sweeping scale is impactful; as like witnessing a Helen Frankenthaler color field painting for the first time. Christiansen shows off to excellent effect her ability to weave translucent color and brushstroke, integrating them like a breath of air passing over mountain ranges. Her repetition of circles remind me of  Arthur Dove's penchant for creating sound waves, although in this instance I hear birds sing as they migrate across the sky. Christiansen's current sojourn in the wide open spaces of Wyoming may have something to do with this sensibility for Nature. Her inspiration may lie elsewhere, but this work is a welcome relief from the anticipated literal-ness of other printed art. It brings full-circle the idea that printed art isn't relegated to a specific imagery - it can look like a drawing, painting, sculpture, or nothing at all.Regardless, I also enjoy this piece at the Mid America Print show because it is open and available for the public to see it - really see it, without constraint of traditional mat or glass to protect it. It is vulnerable, and therefore more viewer tactile-friendly.

I will confess a preference for this open interpretation of imagery, since my own roots stem from Abstract Expressionism, but I sense she understands it, too. Christiansen's work nourishes our soul, and I, for one, will gladly continue to feast upon it.

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