Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Katherine Irish, in her studio
Photo credit: Oli Robbins

c. Katherine Irish

c. Katherine Irish

Paintings, by Katherine Irish

Signpost Featured Artist

Katherine Irish, skywatcher

—Oli Robbins

Placitas landscape painter Katherine Irish has been a “skywatcher” for as long as she can remember. Her paintings portray snapshots of New Mexico’s abounding, energetic skies. Even though Katherine perceives nature as teeming with movement and intensity, when gazing at the sky her experience is one of quietude and serenity. “Every day, every moment is different. When I look at a sunset or when I’m looking at a sky, I feel a sense of quiet.”

For Katherine, the great power of nature becomes palpable as it is reflected in the sky, whereas on the ground, things seem to move more slowly. And even though the sky is nothing if not vast, connecting each corner of the world, Katherine tends to focus solely on New Mexico. Says Katherine, “When traveling, I’ll see things, but I think I have to be in a place to absorb it, to really do paintings of it... I don’t have that same kind of connection as I have here. It’s kind of that heart connection I feel when I see a sunset.”

Katherine has been painting since her earliest days, and doesn’t remember a time when art wasn’t a part of her life. But, growing up in Decatur, Illinois, she wasn’t often exposed to masterpieces from the history of art and therefore found herself looking elsewhere for inspiration. She pored over the “P” section of her family’s World Book Encyclopedia, marveling at reproductions of world-famous paintings. Then, in the eight grade, one of her teacher-nuns noticed her proclivity toward drawing and tasked her with taking home holy cards to copy and return. She later sharpened her artistic knowledge and abilities at Indiana’s DePauw University, where she received a BFA. During her junior year, she studied at Rome’s Tyler School of art and soaked up Europe’s pervasive aesthetic offerings, journeying on a pilgrimage of sorts. She was especially drawn to the French Impressionists as well as Turner, Rouault, Redon, and Klee.

After college, uncertain whether art could provide her with a living, Katherine moved to New York and pursued a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. She continued to draw and paint, finding the city’s subways and streets replete with fascinating human subjects. Working as an art therapist introduced her to people with various mental disorders, many of whom she studied and painted. But despite the richness of New York’s art scene and its boundless vitality, Katherine opted to move out West, settling in Taos in 1982. “I just started really wanting to get more in touch with nature and be more in touch with nature,” says Katherine. She promptly started painting the skies of Taos, their manifold colors and clouds.

When her son was born in 1988, she continued to paint landscapes, but also developed a box painting business in order to maintain a steady income as well as a favorable schedule for parenthood. A few years later, Katherine moved further south, eventually making Placitas her home. In 1997, she went back to school for Counseling, a field in which she continues to work as both a school counselor and a therapist in a private practice.

Katherine usually works from her own photographs, never leaving home without her camera. She enjoys retreating to her studio to contemplate the evocation of light through color. Early on, she painted in oil, switching to pastels in 2002. She considers pastels more “hands-on” and “immediate” than oils. She’s a Signature Member of the NM Pastel Society and the Pastel Society of America. Her paintings were featured in and adorned the cover of Pastel Journal last summer. Says Katherine, “Skies are a window to a presence much larger than we are. At night, stars and planets remind us that there are many mysteries and of our scale in the larger scheme of existence. Skies teach us of our ever-changing experience in life, a moment never to be repeated, never the same.” Katherine’s paintings can be seen at Marigold Arts Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe and on her website:

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