Once upon a time there were artists who created large, exciting paintings, who didn't try to make pictures of anything, but just used beautiful colors to make people go "ooooh" and "ahhhhh." These artists were called the "Abstract Expressionists." Grownups said some nice things about these paintings and also some bad things. Some grownups liked the colors and the oooohing and the ahhhhing, because they knew that these artists were painting what they felt in the spirit of the moment: they were "expressing themselves." Other grownups said that the painters were cheating because they didn't make detailed pictures like photographs. "Hey, any kid could do that", they said.
But that wasn't true. It took a real grownup artist and lots and lots of work to make an abstract expressionist painting. What was true is that any kid could appreciate such a painting because it was big and bold but not boring. Some of them thought some paintings were beautiful and others a little scary, but they all made you feel something.
Then the grownups who liked the paintings got tired of abstract expressionism and artists began to do other things, like Pop Art. But not all artists gave up on Abstract Expressionist paintings.
One artist is still making paintings that make you feel her feelings in the spirit of the moment. She likes bright colors, as in "New Place to Start", and she likes making scribbly circles, the kind that you probably made when you were a kid, and the kind that I still make on paper with pens or pencils. Sometimes that artist (a lady artist) likes to make dark paintings like "Behind Closed Eyes", like the colors you can see when you close your eyes, but brighter.
The name of that artist is Kathleen King, who learned to paint at UC Berkeley, a university once famous for its Abstract Expressionism. She will be showing her art in March, 2005 at a cafe called Muddy's in the Mission District, San Francisco.
It has been said: "Play is the work of the child." What is the role of play in the work of the artist? That is the question with which all artists, King included, must struggle. From what she told me, she does.
As for me, I looked up Abstract Expressionism on Google. and picked what I thought was the best description of that mid-20th Century art movement:
"The Russian Wassily Kandinsky… saw that objects and figures were not necessary to produce feelings in art. He could do it with lines, shapes, and colors alone. … The individual styles of Abstract Expressionists are as varied and individual as a person's handwriting. This art movement contains great variety, for its creative method inspires individualism in its artists. Abstract Expressionism began with no preconceived notions other than the experience of their most recent canvases."
And where did I find that description? On an elementary school website. Of course. It all makes sense. To read the description in its entirety, click here. And of course, to see miniature screen pictures of Kathleen King's big bold work, click here. But go see the big paintings. Really. —JDL
Copyright ©2004-2005 Jonathan David Leavitt