Mountain View Voice

News - June 21, 2013

Local artist returns to nature with upcoming exhibit

by Elize Manoukian

Even long after they're gone, certain spaces leave lasting impressions of happiness or longing. For artisan printmaker Kathryn Kain, these memories can create inspiration.

A neighborhood that was once residential at the Hunters Point Naval Base in San Francisco provides the vision for her upcoming exhibition, "Gone to the Wild", which opens at the Mohr Gallery of the Community School of Music and Art (CSMA) Friday, June 21.

Kain moved to the Bay Area from Toledo, Ohio in 1979, and received her post-baccalaureate degree in print making from the California State University at Hayward under the tutelage of legendary Bay Area artist Kenjilo Nanao. During this time, Kain joined a movement of artists to colonize Hunters Point after the Navy abandoned it in the 1970s. While the old shipyards were leased and renovated into studios, the former homes fell into disuse and disarray.

"Especially in our urban area we can never find a space that's just uninhabited and empty," Kain says. "(The houses) were covered with plants that had just gone wild."

As it became apparent that the neighborhood would be developed, Kain said she returned to the location as often as possible, taking hundreds of photos and collecting flowers and plants to take back to her studio.

"In my mind, it was like I had to do it, because of the feeling that place gave me... You just don't see something like that every day," she said.

The surreal collection features a number of large-scale prints that juxtapose images of women with a more natural element. "As a female I identify with that," Kain says. "I did a ton of figurative work early on but... I started doing still life because I wanted to not rely on photography, to bring things into my studio and draw from life."

Kain now balances her time in the studio with work as an instructor of etching, lithography and monotype for Stanford University and other institutions, and her career as a master printmaker for Smith Andersen Editions, a Palo Alto gallery and press. Kain works with fine artists, providing technical expertise and skill to facilitate their craft. Kain also volunteers for nonprofit organizations such as the San Francisco-based ArtSeed, which offers free art classes to underprivileged children, and hosts workshops out of Smith Andersen.

Although the collaborative nature of much of her work makes it a challenge to dedicate time to her own art, Kain says that seeking out those experiences comes with its own value.

"If I'm in my studio every day alone, it can be nice, but I'm not really a part of the world."

CSMA's Mohr Gallery is located at Finn Center, 230 San Antonio Circle in Mountain View. The Friday, June 21, reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. and is free.

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