California artist’s digital work on display in Steamboat through Jan. 2 |

California artist’s digital work on display in Steamboat through Jan. 2

K. Saari Gallery owner Kimberly Saari stands among the digital contemporary works of artist Kathryn Dunlevie. The work will be on display through Jan. 2.
Matt Stensland

— Somewhere in the back alleys of Santa Monica, Calif., is a hidden natural world that artist Kathryn Dunlevie can’t get out of her head.

In her series “Back Alley Springtime,” on display until Jan. 2 at K. Saari Gallery in downtown Steamboat Springs, Dunlevie explores the white lattices, budding wildflowers and childhood memories of alleys that run between neighborhood houses.

“It’s amazing how nature springs up even there,” Dun­levie said Thursday. “Plants and animals just kept creeping into the pictures. You can’t keep nature out no matter how much you try to civilize it.”

In her digitally manipulated photographs, Dunlevie adorns a main picture with iconic images such as birds, flowers, trees, spirals and other shapes that peel back a layer of the photograph to peek into another photograph, as if there’s a hidden world behind the picture.

“All my work has a kind of inside-out-ness,” Dunlevie said. “A flipped perspective, like a puzzle almost.”

The effect is that the main photos — in the alleyway series, it’s photographs of stark white lattice — have artfully placed windows that take on dramatic or playful shapes.

The secondary photos are pulled from her archives and could have been taken anywhere and anytime. It’s the color and emotion that she’s looking for to enhance the main photo.

“I’m using them as I used to use paint,” she said.

Gallery owner Kimberly Saari said there has been a strong local reaction to Dunlevie’s contemporary work since its opening Dec. 1. It’s Saari’s first display since returning to her old location at 837 Lincoln Ave.

“People are really reacting to these, it’s wonderful,” she said. “And that’s what it’s about, is the reactions, the discourse.”

The show features 16 24-by-24-inch pieces of “Back Alley Springtime” and 13 small pieces of the series “Earthly Matters.”

“It’s very stark artwork, but there’s an organic-ness to it,” Saari said.

Dunlevie grew up in the South, wandering alleyways in Savannah, Ga., and Dallas. On her first walk home from school with a boy, she remembers traversing between neighborhood alleyways, inspiring the “Courting” piece that depicts love blooming as would flowers in the cracks of sidewalks. Another piece, “Abandoned Forest,” illustrates the alleys where people would toss old Christmas trees in January.

“I hope it evokes some kind of memories, even if it’s just of a season or sunlight,” Dunlevie said.

Dunlevie worked as a painter and a collage artist, and her work is displayed in major galleries across the world.

In 2008, she discovered that this particular digital process, which uses Adobe Photoshop as its backbone, is much more spontaneous. That’s largely thanks to the undo button.

“It’s some of the most buoyant, enthusiastic, energetic work I’ve ever done because there is no fear,” she said. “When I did paint and collage, there was always that long pause, ‘Do I want to put this brushstroke here?’ Now, I have no fear, no hesitation.”

As a lover of the outdoors and its simple beauty, she said she’s thrilled to have her work at Saari’s gallery.

“I’m so glad my work is in Steamboat because there’s such a deep, deep, love for nature there,” she said. “And this (series) is an affirmation of nature coming back even in places where we tried to put it in secondary status.”

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