When you walk through the halls of 633 W Palm, it is difficult to miss the captivating painting Stonehenge Series #9. The large piece fills the wall, and is a unique take on the famous British landmark with its impressionistic brushstrokes and wide array of colors. It’s interesting to take a look at the artist Katherine Alexander’s inspirations throughout her career, and how much her work has evolved since she painted this piece in 1989.
Katherine Alexander is a native of Southern California. She received degrees from both CSU Fullerton and San Diego State University. She started her career as an abstract painter, often painting figures. However, she found a love for landscapes in the years following her graduation, with her Stonehenge Series being a part of the shift in her style. In 1986, Alexander went to the British Isles for the first time, and she became obsessed with Neolithic sites such as Stonehenge and Castlerigg. She imagined the giant stones somehow communicating with each other, fascinated by their form and placement.
It’s clear to see just by glancing at Alexander’s work that she is influenced by French impressionists like Claude Monet. In addition to Impressionism, she also studied the effects of diffused light that was studied in the Luminism movement of the mid-19thcentury. The Luminists studied light as a tool of spiritual dialogue with nature. Alexander uses acrylic to communicate these effects of light through her distinctive style. She uses highly saturated pigments that have an element of translucency, and may use more than 30 coats on a single piece:
“I’ll just load up my palettes with globs of paint and build and build and build”
But she never uses black – in order to bring out her darks, she underpaints with gold to give her shadows a glow.
This piece reflects a very short period in her career. Soon after her fascination with the landscape of the British Isles, she began almost exclusively painting “skyscapes” – images of the sky with very little land to be seen. While she is currently based in New York City, for the past several years she has spent most of her time in Texas, photographing the sky and painting what she sees.
Alexander’s interpretation of light and color is truly mesmerizing. Although she uses intense reds, greens, blues and pinks, the colors exist in harmony and give off a very natural look. Although Stonehenge Series differs slightly from her current style, it is amazing to see how Alexander managed to capture landscape in such an intriguing way so early on in her career.
So next time you see this piece at 633 W. Palm, take a closer look. You’ll be surprised at how many colors you’ll find!
“In the city, where people can’t see great distances, there’s a sense of containment. People tend to put more attention on themselves and what’s immediately around them. Out there, you just have this landscape around you. All you hear is the wind and the birds, and a train off in the distance. You’re just this tiny, tiny element in the landscape. It gives you a very realistic perspective of where we are.”