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This Horizon is a review of an art exhibition by painter Kathleen Simpson at the Janovec Gallery in
Portland, Oregon in April 2008. Simpson's work is influenced by her interest in science fiction and the
natural landscape of Oregon and her native Northern California.
“This Horizon.” Portland gallery shows landscape series by painter Kathleen Simpson.
Painter Kathleen Simpson’s April exhibit entitled “This Horizon,” at the Janovec Gallery
offers an exploration into landscape. The lushly painted mixed media and watercolor
pieces fill the gallery with a Zen like energy that blows in a new breath of fresh air into
the neighborhood art space.
Simpson grew up in Santa Cruz, California. It was there in the woods in coastal Northern
California that she first fell in love with the natural world, and has used it as her
subject ever since. After spending the summer of 1996 attending a pre college program
at the California College of the Arts, she moved to Portland in 1997 to attend PSU. Since
graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in painting, drawing, and printmaking, she
has used plastic, ink, paper, paint, ice, clay, found objects, dirt, plaster, metal, and
fabric to pursue her ideas. The moist environment and coastal wildlife of the Pacific
Northwest grew on Simpson and she produced the “Fabulous Phylum Mollusca” series,
one of her more recent groups of paintings, which includes sea inspired creatures painted
in bold colors such as red and blue, pink and green.
Her work changed dramatically in October 2007, after a short stay in
Manhattan where she worked on a series of abstracted land/city/seascapes.
Simpson says of her work, “ I am interested in the confluence of science and fiction,
in the place where the sky meets the earth, and what we know meets what we can
only guess at.” In an interview at the opening on First Friday, April 4, she
mentioned Anselm Kiefer, the great German artist, as one of her influences.
Mark Rothko is also an artist who has caught her attention, and many of her
jewel like watercolors done in New York in October, 2007, echo the misty quality of a
Turner seascape, another of her avowed influences.
Simpson also has a fondness for writing, and it is not surprising to learn
that this multi-faceted artist used to write a great deal of poetry. She says that
her works from her New York sojourn are a kind of celebration of the curve
of the earth and a comparison of all of its environments, be they natural or altered by
In another work from her show at Janovec, “San Francisco,” Simpson utilized acrylic,
glitter, and oil on canvas to create a ghostly image of the bay with a trace of the bridge in
the distance. Pale grey and turquoise predominate in this luscious painting.
Her work has been in exhibitions in Portland, such as the Launch
Pad Gallery and the Littman Gallery, and she has been a part of the Benefit for Cascade
Aids Project. Outside of the northwest, her work has been included in shows
in galleries and studios in Sacramento, California, as well as in Manhattan,
Westchester, and Brooklyn, New York.
Simpson’s upcoming shows include an installation that will be part of the
“Thirty Rooms” event in May at Milepost 5, the NE Portland live/work artists’ spaces
brought about through the efforts of Sam Adams. She will combine plastic shopping bag
sculptures, new paintings, and some of her large works from the Janovec show to create a
more “Sci Fi” environment in contrast to the poetic feel of her work in the popular
Brooklyn area Janovec Gallery show. The Portland artist will also be working on a series
of murals with Emily Lux, who pioneered the Women’s Mural project in
north Portland on Interstate Avenue.