The studio is situated on a road north
of Grants Pass with a view giving onto
a downhill slope of trees. We passed
inspection by the large Alaskan
malamute security detail, aka studio
dog. By the end of our visit, we were
good friends with Mack.
Kristen sat at her easel, mixing colors
and painting a scene of skeletal trees
above a bank of fog. On counters
around the room are finished paintings
included in the current series. They
will be shown at Manly Art Center in
Brookings this summer.
The house is new to Kristen and her
partner. They bought it months ago,
but had to wait to move in, and are still
adjusting to the environs, much privacy,
thanks to the trees.
After trying to make a living in various
locations, she moved to southern
Oregon in 2015 and felt like she was
home. She grew up in the forested
hills outside Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon,
with so many paces to play. Alas, one
of those places was a parcel of forest
nearby that was bought and logged,
likely never seen by the owner. The loss
was profound to Kristen. The following
day, the Loma Prieta earthquake
hit. It was clearly a deity expressing
a reaction to such a travesty. Young
Kristen acquired a world view that
landscapes are not stable, placid
places, they are dynamic. What we
perceive as normal is just a moment in
time and liable to change. The same
forest caught fire last year.
Kristen completed her Bachelor of
Fine Arts degree at the School of the
Art Institute in Chicago. Spending so
much time with the actual art hanging
in the Museum made the experience of
art very personal.
Her family is art-oriented. Her great
grand-dad was an artist. She started
young, drawing with her dad since
childhood. Both her parents made
their living as computer programmers,
and supported her art education. She
enjoys paying it forward – helping other
artists. While in art school she heard
that a mere 2% of the students would
actually make a living as an artist. She
was determined to be one of them.
She was still in college when the World
Trade Center was attacked. As an
artist, with any luck, your art becomes
the way you control your reactions
and process your grief. It is your outlet,
especially when shared. The arts are
what you need to process trouble. One
of her childhood friends in Bonny Doon
became a world-renowned violinist.
“Your most valued friends expand your
world,” said Kristen, musing on where
they grew up.
Two summers past, fires were burning
near her mother’s home in California.
Another fire threatened her daughters’
part-time home. Kristen felt helpless,
unable to offer aid. Then came the
Almeda Fire. It was getting personal!
What she could do was paint, and she
started her series on fires. She referred
to the paintings facing us. Eighteen
years after the Biscuit Fire, the
regrowth is still so short and compact,
while gray rib-like remains of the forest
tower above. The ghost forest. The fire
had too much fuel and sat down and
burned the soil sterile, she explained.
She showed her “thumbnail” paintings
from snapshots of the burned
Selected at random from the artist membership.
Interviewed by Ann DiSalvo.
photos this page: B. Bayard
28 Ashland Gallery Guide