My first public art commission, a hand-colored block print for the City of Kent, took as its subject the Herbert Bayer Earthworks in Mill Creek Canyon. The commissioned print was a landmark for me, my first opportunity to create explicitly for the public arena after many years of plein-air landscape painting. I was drawn to Kent’s Earthworks for several reasons: I find its forms and volumes beautiful in themselves; I know Herbert Bayer’s Earthworks aligns me with the very things that make me want to paint in the first place: the reverence, the intimacy, the sense of connection that come from standing for many hours outside in the woods or on a river bank. To me, painting from nature has always seemed like a conversation with a deeply intelligent friend: my role is, mostly, to listen, and to make sure that each brush stroke is an honest response.
One of the things I love about painting in the woods is the way you can keep on looking back between the branches and the underbrush, and there’s always another layer of things to be seen. Painting the river is the same way: there are the things you see under the water, and in the water, and the water itself, and the light that reflects off the water, and the far bank, and the woods beyond. . . The spatial complexity makes me look deeply and work vigorously to capture what I can before the light changes. When I succeed, my hope is that my work gives the viewer a strong sense of place and moment, and a feeling of invitation and entry into the natural world. My own roots have gone down deep into my river valley in the hours I’ve stood painting. I feel that the world of nature is our true home, though in our day people have little opportunity to connect with it. That’s what I want my work to do: awaken people’s recognition and love for the natural world around them.
Kathleen Fruge-Brown has received numerous awards, including a 2007 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and a 1987 Fulbright Grant for travel to Florence , Italy. Frugé-Brown has exhibited internationally, and her work is in major collections, including the cities of Seattle, Maple Valley, Kent, SeaTac, as well as King County, Microsoft and the SAFECO corporation. She resides in Maple Valley, Washington.
1. Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks, hand-colored block print, 12" x 16", 2004. Commissioned by the City of Kent.
2. Natural Light: Thicket | Grove | Canopy, 2006. Each panel 32” x 24”, vitreous enamel on steel, installed only a few blocks from the Earthworks during 2007.