Kathryn Stedham

Kathryn Stedham is one of those artists who find their path early in life. Stedham’s formative years began in rural South Georgia and then Virginia. As a child, she would sit in her grandfather’s studio and watch him paint, draw, and build furniture. She then worked in the same studio, painting on his handcrafted furniture in the tradition of the Tole/folk painters of that time. Later, as the artist’s life began to consume her, she branched out and started studying in various ateliers and studios where she focused her training on academic realism—only painting from life in the manner of the classic tradition. 

In 2005, she moved out West, arriving first in Utah and later New Mexico. While she was working primarily in modernism at this time, she fell in love with the West as soon as she arrived, specifically its landscapes. This led her to combining her classic background with modern sensibilities to create a signature style that she is still known for today. 

“I learned how to find my own voice within the landscape,” she says. “You can’t hide here, you’re laid open, and I found the landscape to be an energetic force in my life. When I’m out in it, I feel small—I dissolve into the vastness. I feel an urgency to portray this space, rooting out the mystic snippets of a quickly vanishing landscape. I seek to capture its raw and often awkward elegance in the rapidly changing light, vast distances, rugged escarpments, colorful mesas, and hidden arroyos—to excavate the bones of existence in this terrain where the West is still wild and free, and to become an explorer of this ineffable mystery.”

This approach to the landscape is uniquely Stedham’s. She heads out into the land several times a week to study it and absorb the sense, noting the colors and characteristics of the environment around her. She often paints en plein air and uses that same technique even when working in the studio. Once in the confines of her studio, she applies her finely tuned visual acuity to recalling the details of the land, eschewing preliminary sketches or photographs in favor of diving straight into the scene and trusting her well-trained hand to render it accurately.

Her experience as a rock climber allows her to understand the rocks and formations in a tactile, more personal way, and she is thus able to imbue the scenes with a subtle narrative quality that evokes the region’s backstory of geologic turbulence and mystery.

“What is important to me is that I feel the viewer must see the hand of the artist,” says Stedham. “I’m not concerned with realism. I’m also not concerned with an accurate representation of a scene. I’m a painter’s painter, meaning for me it is about the paint, about that expression, what a place feels like rather than what it looks like. I love the idea of a painting going from the eye to the hand, no brain interference, it’s just what comes through me.”

Her combination of experience and skill allows Stedham to create scenes that are contemplative but grounded, blending representational, modernist, and gestural expression in landscapes that encourage the viewer to step out of linear time and experience the ageless wonder of the Southwest from the artist’s unique perspective.

Stedham’s paintings can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada. In addition to her studio practice, Stedham is an avid horsewoman, regularly participating in both hunter/jumper and Western riding disciplines. She also enjoys international travel and is a longtime student of the Sanbo lineage of Zen Buddhism.

Kathryn Stedham is represented by Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Durango, Colorado; and Medicine Man Gallery, Tucson, Arizona.  

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