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Evolution in Paint

> Story by Kirsten Rue
> Photography by Latham Jenkins

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The Artist: “My goal is to make work with innate resonance that taps into a sense of universality, yet also has a freshness and unexpected element that awakens a part of us all.”

Art is, in a sense, a way of becoming. For Kathryn Turner, her painterly eye originated in Jackson Hole, where she grew up surrounded by limitless space, the constant play of light, and no delineation between the “wild” and the open meadows of her grandparents’ dude ranch. Precocious, the painter found mentors early. “I was blessed to meet renowned artists at a young age,” Turner explains. “Conrad Schwiering, Skip Whitcomb, Ned Jacob, Tim Lawson—they all took me under their wing in various ways and helped me to cut my teeth as an artist with solid fundamentals.”

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Motion: Here, archetypal tone and elegant composition marry the rigor of skeletal structure, anatomy, and proportion. “I’m all about this idea of losing edges. To me, soft or lost edges create a sense of movement in the piece, particularly when you’re painting animals,” the artist explains. This approach makes intuitive sense for Turner, who was a dancer before she was a painter, and is aware that beginning with a solidly composed form allows for a convincing sense of energy to come across on the canvas. “Things are always in motion—I am drawn to communicating that impermanence.”

From there, Turner went east, studying classical painting technique at the nation’s oldest art school—the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C.—and then art history in Rome. Like the centuries of paint layered thickly in each chapel interior, this experience in the epicenter of Western art endowed her with an appreciation for the continuum of expression. Turner’s evolution continues here, drawing on the dual influences of tradition and the context of wild spaces. “I would like to think I’m making significant work that’s made locally. There’s a universal aspect,” she says.

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Touchstones: “My paintings traverse different styles in order to tap into something universal. I draw a lot from abstract expressionists—the energy of the brushwork; the color and lack of color; the design and composition should in and of themselves be elements of beauty. I’m a devoted student of the canons of art that are my teachers in so many ways. … With all these influences, I feel that this is a special time to be an artist.”

Turner treasures the supportive community of Jackson Hole and also shows her work around the world, including a June 2015 exhibition in England. Inspired by schools as varied as abstract expressionism and impressionist plein air painting, the work shown here is one of range and intense curiosity, always questing forward and making new ripples in representation.

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“Art by its very nature is meant to evolve, and I answer that call to continue evolving.”

Mercurial Scenes: “A lot of my images are tonal in value. I feel that sometimes composition does all the work, while color and subject matter get all the credit,” Turner says. “Paintings are supposed to be more like poems with a distillation that just brings out the essence of the subject.” Capturing the poem-like tone of each of her subjects—be it landscape, horse, crane, or something else—means that Turner is always exploring new things. She explains: “I don’t want my artwork to ever be stagnant.”