‘Wild Things’ exhibit displays a new style for one Steamboat artist
Local artist Marion Kahn’s latest exhibit, “Wild Things,” is currently on display at the Depot Art Center through the end of July.
The title, she said, comes from one of the paintings, “Little Bear,” which illustrates a baby bear that she found on her deck eating leftover birdseed one day in December. But it’s also a nod to her newfound love of abstract art.
“I like to call my style new Western art,” Kahn said. “People want the iconic Western art, like a cowboy around a campfire, but I hope I can encourage them to have a new vision of what Western art could be.”
While Kahn began her career as a plein air artist, she said about two-thirds of her work is currently abstract.
“I love the discipline of plein air painting,” she said. “You have two hours to start and finish, because the sun is moving. But it also means painting with a limited palette, and I was hungry to get beyond that and get into more exciting colors.”
She describes herself as a colorist, naturally gravitating toward orange and turquoise hues.
“I use the discipline of plein air painting to force myself to try something different because that’s growth,” she explained.
“Wild Things” features eight of her pieces, with a mix of representational and abstract art.
Several of the paintings in the show are part of an abstract series that Kahn is working on called “The Space in Between.” After her daughter died in 2019, Kahn began exploring the idea of what is between earth and heaven; this is her artistic effort to try to reach through.
She has also done a series of 11 sunset paintings, one of which is hanging in the show.
Many of the paintings feature layers of texture, made with tissue paper or cold wax.
“I used to think art was only what you did with your paintbrush, but it’s not,” Kahn said. “It’s whatever you can make it.”
When she began learning about abstract art, she used to constantly ask her teacher what color should go where.
“My teacher always told me it didn’t matter,” she recalled. “As someone who is goal oriented, it was hard to accept that, but now, I say that to my own students — and one of them told me that it helped him in his life to think about that. We get so caught up in what we should do; sometimes, we have to give ourselves permission to just explore the road.”
Kahn’s latest work displays that same concept. One paining was done as an experiment to mix the colors on the canvas itself; another was done to the music of Gershwin’s “A Rhapsody in Blue.” When working on this painting, Kahn laid the canvas on the floor, attached her paintbrush to a broom, turned the music on and danced around the canvas.
With abstract art, she said, the possibilities are endless.
“I’m always pushing the boundaries. It’s just in my nature to see what the possibilities are and to make something beautiful.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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