Sunset Moon Rise | Oil on Canvas | 30 x 36 inches

Artist Spotlight: Kathryn Stedham

When Kathryn Stedham heads out of the barn just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the horse she rides each morning, she acknowledges and takes in the details of the land and sky. Rock formations, cloud cover, canyon walls, silent mesas, and distant peaks all inform the work she will do in her studio when she puts away her horse and picks up her paintbrushes.

“My work comes from these intimate moments I have alone with the land,” says Stedham. “Being in those vast spaces carries over into my work and parallels what I think about art, what I think is important. Earlier in my life, I sailed, and then, too, I would go thousands of miles by myself, and this is what defines my art. I don’t do things the way others do it; I do what I do, and this is who I am at the core.”

Photo: Mary Neiberg

Stedham’s perseverance and adventurous spirit began early in her life with her grandfather. Her memories are of sitting in his studio and watching him paint, draw, and build furniture. After spending much of her early life on the East Coast, Stedham traveled West and settled in Utah before moving to Santa Fe roughly 15 years ago.

The artist saw her work change once she settled in Santa Fe. “I would say my landscapes became more expressionistic, more modernist, and that came about because I became aware of the Taos Founders,” says Stedham. “I saw their work and became deeply influenced by what they did. Also, I started to learn so much about the local area — all the history here — and started spending time figuring out how to find my own voice within that tradition. I had to articulate what I was seeing and experiencing here and had to find a way to share that experience so others can have it as well.”

Along with riding horses, Stedham is an avid rock climber and spends time exploring the New Mexico landscape. She lets the emotions and feelings of those interactions with the land permeate her art. When out in these spaces, Stedham takes time to carefully absorb what she feels when confronted with this natural beauty. She often paints en plein air.

Black Mesa Big Sky | Oil on Canvas | 40 x 40 inches

“For me, every painting is like a journey,” says Stedham. “I don’t know where I’m going, but I enjoy the discovery process. I don’t start with a fixed idea. I just see where the painting takes me. That way, each image stands on its own and represents that moment in time. I’m not interested in accurate representation but an experience of that journey. I often forgo reference material and just paint from memory. For this new show [at Santa Fe’s Blue Rain Gallery], I am sharing a bit of my world. My West — how I see things real or imagined.”

Much like the modernists who have been drawn to this region for more than 100 years — artists such as Blumenschein, Higgins, Dasburg, O’Keeffe, and Hartley — Stedham finds symmetry in the natural, organic shapes of the landscapes. But she does so with her own independent spirit and enthusiasm for her particular vision.

Desert Tower at Ghost Ranch | Oil on Canvas | 16 x 20 inches

Mark Sublette, owner of Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, appreciates Stedham’s classical approach. “Kathryn has a wonderful, old-school tonalist sensibility right out of the playbook of Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton,” says Sublette. “She sees the landscape and its most pure form.”

Stedham is represented by Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson, Arizona, and Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe and Durango, Colorado. She will introduce several new subjects along with her landscapes during West: Real, Imagined, July 12 through 26, at Blue Rain’s Santa Fe location.

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