Living Her Paintings in the Rain June 2021 Issue 1
by Nancy Coleman
It’s no wonder that an artist who grew up in The Land of 10,000 Lakes (Minnesota) and lived for many years in Alaska so close to the sea that whales swam past her windows, would choose watercolor as her medium. Indeed, Artist Kate Vikstrom’s soul and her paintings seem to bleed into each other. Deeply imbued with a fluid nature and with vibrant color, she and her work are both at once feminine yet strong.
Kate has overcome some difficult challenges in her past to become the woman and artist she wants to be. Her background is a fluid personal history, with many geographical moves, major changes in family life, and even an unforeseen pivot in choosing a profession when a college advisor encouraged her to include graphic design to her art major.
Kate’s moves were all conscious choices for places where water was a predominant landscape feature. Though her parents chose Minnesota, her own moves after childhood were to live on the Hudson River upstate New York, to the coastal edges of the Pacific Northwest (Olympia and Bremerton) and especially to Ketchikan, located on the edge of an island in Alaska. They were all were toward aqueous environments where the blue landscapes thrilled her. Ketchikan was especially welcoming to her, not just for the watery ambience but because, as she describes, “It was a very wet part of Alaska; water is Life there. It fills the air, fills the forest.”
Ketchikan was good to Kate in another way. Every community in the area has what she portrayed as a “deep running vein” of artists of all sorts. (Fluidity runs in Kate’s language as well.) Ketchikan denizens appreciate art and they resonate with the water aspect of it, so Kate’s work sold well for the eighteen years she stayed.
Kate’s work has been heavily influenced by the watery environments she has inhabited for a long time, with panoramic landscapes, sometimes horizons that are undefined because of mist and cloud, and compellingly beautiful swirling abstracts. She sees her works in which there is no real separation between sky and the land as a metaphor for “life where there are no real boundaries between friend and stranger, or between heaven and earth.” Clearly, Kate’s work illustrates her personal growth through the years of myriad experiences and her practice.
Another interesting aspect of Kate’s work that reflects who she is, are her collages, which she started way back while in Alaska. To make them, she cuts out the parts of “failed paintings” that she likes and collages them into new compositions. She sees this as a metaphor as well: “We can build [ourselves] out of our failures.” Some of her collages are part of her featured exhibit in June, including a “Gaia piece” and two other “very feminine-centered works.”
Indeed, watercolor painting is what calls to Kate. She feels like she was born to do it. “I like,” Kate averred, “that you can’t be a control freak with watercolor. Sometimes the paint takes control.” They start out one way and evolve, “becoming something else.” It takes guts for an artist to choose a medium that is not only difficult, but one that she learned quickly while working in New York that, “Even though it is the hardest painting medium, it has the lowest status. Often people just walk by without even really taking a closer look.” Nevertheless, it seems to have been an excellent medium for Kate Vikstrom as a person as well as an artist.
We invite you to come to Kate’s featured exhibit at CVG, Like Painting In The Rain, and experience this lovely part of her.
Note: Like Painting In The Rain will be on display June 2nd through June 26th, and the artist will be present on First Friday, June 4th evening, and on request. She would love to meet you and tell you more about her work.