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LAURA ROBBINS
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DAWN WILSON-ENOCH

An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist
 

Katherine Christie Wilson

Katherine Christie Wilson in her Placitas studio

c. Katherine Christie Wilson

Forest Loop Road, painting, by Katherine Christie Wilson

c. Katherine Christie Wilson

The Old Corral, by Katherine Christie Wilson

Featured artist: The Maine attraction

The landscapes of Katherine Christie Wilson

—Oli Robbins

About 15 years ago, landscape painter Katherine Christie Wilson and her husband David flew into Albuquerque to visit David’s architecture partner. Katherine recalls arriving at night and being unaware of the beautiful scenery that awaited her. She woke up the next morning in Placitas, looked out the window and was blown away by the colors and shapes of the New Mexico landscape. She had been warned that, compared to Maine—where they were living at the time—Placitas would be a “nice shock,” but she was still surprised.

Says Katherine, “We fell in love with everything—the blue sky. It was amazing.” Katherine and David continued to visit yearly until, in 2007, they decided to make Placitas their permanent residence. The very same view that greeted Katherine on her first morning in Placitas continues to fuel her creativity daily; Katherine and David now live in the home they used to visit, and what once was their guest room has become Katherine’s studio.

Katherine has worked as an artist on and off for decades, but also spent many years teaching and working as a counselor in adult education, assisting students who had been long out of school, and wanted to reacquaint themselves with the skills required for college. She has enjoyed painting since childhood, though she admits that she originally wanted to pursue a different artistic route: “As a kid, I really wanted to be a ballerina, but I wasn’t built for it, and my parents really didn’t want to drive me all the way to the dance classes. A neighbor of ours offered art classes, so I got to go to them, and walk from our home.” Disappointed as she may have been initially, Katherine found that she enjoyed making art, and painting became a lasting hobby. She returned to art classes in her late twenties, when a friend suggested that they take an evening art class for fun. “That brought it all back,” says Katherine. “I started spending more and more time doing art, and studying with various artists.” Katherine eventually decided to go back to school for a second bachelor’s degree in fine art because, as she explains, “I just wanted to be better. I needed to bump it up a notch.”

Katherine’s oil paintings of the picturesque and timeless Maine waterfront bare resemblance to 19th-century American master Winslow Homer’s coastal depictions. Edward Hopper has proved to be another source for Katherine, who is fascinated by his treatment of light and shadow—two elements that she articulates beautifully in her own landscapes. Moving to New Mexico has prompted Katherine to experiment with bolder colors, like the profound pinks and reds that are so central to the grandeur of our state. 

An avid hiker and runner, Katherine finds herself in nature quite frequently. One of her favorite places to spend time in and paint is Placitas’ Forrest Loop. Says Katherine, “Visually, I know it now. I have it in me. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful place.”

She frequently paints from her own photographs, so she tries to remember to bring her camera along on outdoor activities. Says Katherine, “I wish I always had my camera with me. Half the time I don’t, and I have to go back, and the light will have changed.” While outdoors, Katherine is on the lookout for striking shadows and the designs they make in nature. Because shadows change with each passing instant in time, the photograph allows for Katherine to capture and reinterpret the moment. Recently, on one particularly cold and overcast afternoon, when the sky was preparing to release the season’s first real snowfall, Katherine found herself looking at a paint-worthy sunset without her camera. “The sun was just setting, and the light hit the mountains, and I’d never before seen such glorious colors. I didn’t have my camera on me, so I missed that one. But later I thought, if I had painted it, it probably would have looked overdone, because the colors were so unreal to begin with.”

Katherine and David still maintain a summer “camp” in Maine. Katherine describes a Maine “camp” as “a place way out in the woods, on a lake, that’s small and not very fancy.” David explains that, because they lived in Maine for so many years, and are fortunate enough to summer there, they don’t miss it while in New Mexico, which still grips their attention. Says David, “I haven’t gotten used to Placitas yet, and I won’t.” Despite how geologically different Placitas and the Maine Coast are, Katherine recognizes certain similarities. She is drawn to the magnitude of the beauty of both places, as well as the pervasive creativity. She explains that the coast of Maine, like Placitas, is “dense with artistic, creative people. I think the vibrancy of the creative people… it just keeps you going. You can’t really step aside and say, ‘I think I’ll just be an observer.’”

As a non-observer, and an active participant in various creative projects, Katherine recently wrote, illustrated, and self-published a cookbook—though she concedes that cooking is not one of her intrinsic talents. Says Katherine, “I’m not a great cook, but I care about what I eat.” As such, she compiled recipes that are easy to make, require little time, and consist of wholesome ingredients. Katherine gleaned inspiration from her time working as a counselor, when she encountered many students that had terrible nutrition because they didn’t know how to cook. An aesthetically pleasing and encouraging read, Great Dinners on a Shoestring: Easy, Delicious and Inexpensive Meals for All Seasons is worth checking out. Katherine’s paintings can also be found alongside and complementing the Maine-inspired poems by American poet Annie Finch in the most recent chapbook published by Voices from the American Land.

Katherine’s portrayals of New Mexico and Maine are on view this month at the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church as part of the Placitas Artist Series. The show will be up February 2 through March 2 and can be visited between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

 
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