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KATHERINE GAGNON


KATHERINE GAGNON


KATHERINE GAGNON

All images © 2014 Katherine Gagnon Essay © 2014 Christopher Stackhouse No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder. Designed by Heather Graham Printed at Indigo Ink 9221 Rumsey Rd, Suite S-6 Columbia, MD 21045


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KATHERINE GAGNON

Woodblock Oil on woodblock 4” x 4” x 1.5” 2014


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Katherine Gagnon-Painting

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by Christopher Stackhouse

Images of Work

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Biography

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Tropical Dream Oil on cotton 6’ x 6’ 2014 Installed at Art Farm, Nebraska


KATHERINE GAGNON


KATHERINE GAGNON - PAINTING

KATHERINE GAGNON - PAINTING By Christopher Stackhouse

Color is a ubiquitous luxury constantly available to the healthy attentive eye of painter Katherine Gagnon. Taking on chromaticity as a primary formal concern can run the risk of reducing painting to academic monochromatism. However, Gagnon privileges the use of pigment, hue, and tenor without subordinating the structural import of shape and line. Compositional integrity in the development of a legible expression, in a declared complete painting, depends on a careful balance between these components. Draftsmanship is necessarily employed, but figurative images as they appear in the paintings culminate from brush strokes and paint handling. Drawing is subsidiary to painting. Figuration tends to give way to abstraction, and, abstraction to figuration, essentializing properties of form. The trading back and forth form and formlessness while near exclusively using color as the hinge has many precedents. Historically important to relate to Gagnon, for one, is the painter Perle Fine (1905-1988). Fine’s diversity in painterly approach expanded over a long career (gestural, geometric, figuration, symbolist), but Gagnon, as a descendant of Fine’s, has compressed such an exploration constantly shifting direction in order to find a painting language that works within and outside of puristic painterly mode. It is this ambition toward a theoretical ideal that provides the engine to constellate and weave, while taking notice of the natural or material world through fantastical indices of sensual, emotional, worlds. The results present a curious building and subverting of artistic vocabularies.

Gagnon’s production over the course of the past few years has been consistently serial. Each of the series is named like chapters of a

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KATHERINE GAGNON book – Carnival, Life Cycles, Return Forward, Explorations in Word & Image, and the latest Loon Calls at Night. Favoring the firm working surface of wood (occasionally metal) panel, preferring it to stretched canvas, most of these paintings are square in format with some notable exceptions. Stump (2014) (image 1) is a portrait of a splintered tree stump in surrealist color or in color that could have been captured in a particular image 1, pg. 2 but rare light of day. The bark is striated in turquoise, sky blue, pink, green algae, orange with hints of fuchsia and white. All of these colors are grounded by underpainting in a tonal range of natural brown, which define the stump’s structural mass. The growth rings of the dead tree that form a plane, equally filled with a variety of hue, slopes toward the viewer. In these looping bands Gagnon’s indulgence in and volubility with paint is clear. However several relationships in art are being made in this ostensibly unassuming image of modest dimensional size. Anthropomorphizing the remains of the dead tree via portraiture re-animates it, gives it expressive living character. Flanking this central figure are bark tinged verticals that are implicitly thriving arboreal kin guarding the wounded. Loosely brushed in, in the distance, are barren trees beyond a clearing, and just peeking out above those is a bit of silver-white sky. In combination a portrait is made of an object that constitutes the contents of a landscape within a landscape, which has been damaged by unseen forces but revitalized in the imagination of the painter. What this echo and sight rhyme metaphorically indicate is no more specific than what is visibly there, yet the possibilities are various. One looming association is the one made of the ‘practice of painting’ with a ‘dead


KATHERINE GAGNON - PAINTING tree’ returned to forest floor fertilizing soil for new growth. Projecting a revaluation of painting based on what appears to be an arbitrarily chosen object (a tree stump in the middle of nowhere) near singularly reproduced in this art, might suffer being overstated if Gagnon’s effort to speak (or write) through painting were not so dependably overt.

Paintings from Explorations in Word & Image draw further attention to how indeterminacy is less of a strategy than a condition that frames the productive tensions in Gagnon’s work. A brush stroke is a brush stroke disclosing its ambiguity before betraying it. Garden (2014) (image 2) is a landscape that is carnivalesque in tenor, loosely composed primarily of softly rounded chevron patterns in pink, blue, and shades of yellow ochre. It is a portal into a dream-like space where what is happening in the image 2, pg. 3 painting is painting performing painting. It is playful and sincere. Unfinished flowers and mingling dashes of green sketching tall grass, background two dark triangular mounds. These blackish shapes could be mountains but they could also be crudely drawn anatomical symmetry - breasts, or legs, or arms reaching with hands disappearing into the foliage. Giving the impression of a view out of an interior onto an exterior, exactly what type of building a viewer might be looking out from, into this imaginary yard, is beyond description. Arcs and angles impose linearity over two dominant fields of color- fuchsia on the top portion, and, a warm orange glow below it. The painter registers mark making as communicative, again, with the specifics of the message being left with and guided by conjecture.

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KATHERINE GAGNON

image 3, pg. 4

image 4, pg. 4

Other paintings in this series offer variable tests of this method. Star (2014) (image 3), a hieroglyphic circle flanked at four poles by ovals attached to it, hints at a face/head and at planetary orbit. Ride (2014) (image 4) gives the visual sensation of the blurred periphery experienced during train or automobile travel, while dissipating letters that could be perceived to spell “DINE” or “RIDE” blend in with vertical and horizontal lines, open and closed shapes that advance and recede into view, groundlessly floating in undefined space. In another, Gagnon puns on negation and secrecy, writing with a paint brush in cursive the word “knot.” (image 5) Mystique in art is a constant quality upon which viewer attention depends. Behind every art work there are perceivable unknowns, set off by the factual object at hand that may inspire curiosity. Gagnon takes for granted the viability of painting to intercept the eye and converse with it. The physical act of looking, with intentionality, is image 5, pg. 4


KATHERINE GAGNON - PAINTING both a muscular and subtle exercise, especially in the studio. Giving herself permission to make paintings that are allusive, expressive and accessible is generous beyond the confines of her practice. A great example of this is Love Letter (2013) (image 6) a pinkish monochrome with undertones of gray applied to an approximate 4’ x 4’ galvanized steel panel. It features another image 6, pg. 5 singular centrally placed equivocal document: a closed gift card envelope. Depicted flat and frontal like a poster, the image of it is simple, smart, and clear. Its dominant two toned rectangle in a square, with cadence of angles, echoes and owes much to Post-War American Abstraction (geometric and minimalist mostly). The title describes not only the painting as a sealed love note to someone specific from someone specific, but it cues Gagnon’s affection for modernist painting. What’s wonderful about the choice in genre here is the lack of preciousness. The work is deceptively direct. Gagnon has ideas that might be trying for a radical formalist, yet inviting to the uninitiated. These paintings signal the early stages of an artist making a passionate appeal to painting to continue doing what it has always been known to do, and with volume, that is, to speak to people.

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KATHERINE GAGNON


MICA MFA Thesis Exhibition D Center Gallery, Baltimore, MD

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KATHERINE GAGNON


IMAGES OF WORK

Tree Figure Oil on panel 14” x 11” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Loon Calls at Night Oil on panel 5’ x 5’ 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Running Through the Woods Oil on panel 5’ x 5’ 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Sprung Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Stump Oil on panel 30” x 24” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Hide and Seek Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Sycamore Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Snake Bite Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Tulip Season Oil on panel 5’ x 5’ 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

For Ophelia Oil on panel 16” x 16” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Garden Oil on panel 16” x 16” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Bloomers Oil on canvas 4’ x 4’ 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Ride Oil on canvas 16” x 16” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Pop Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

On the Range Oil on panel 5’ x 5’ 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Star Oil on panel 16” x 16” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Slopes Oil on panel 16” x 16” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Knot Oil and sand on panel 18” x 18” 2014


IMAGES OF WORK

Meadow Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2014

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KATHERINE GAGNON

LeRoy E. Hoffberger Seminar Rm MICA, 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

Love Letter Oil on galvanized steel 4’ x 4’ 2013

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Drop Oil on panel 20” x 20” 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

Veil Oil on aluminum 12” x 12” 2013

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Sailboat Oil, aluminum, glass, and steel 7” x 8” x 4” 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

Window Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2013

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Palladium Oil and sand on panel 24” x 20” 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

Mirror Oil on aluminum 12” x 12” 2013

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KATHERINE GAGNON

In the Clouds Oil and gesso on panel 12” x 24” 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

dust/lust Oil on aluminum 12” x 12” 2013

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Touch Oil on panel 16”x 16” 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

Float Oil and sand on panel 24” x 24” 2013

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KATHERINE GAGNON

Whole Oil on panel 16” x 16” 2013


IMAGES OF WORK

fish swim away Oil on panel 18” x 18” 2012

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KATHERINE GAGNON


BIOGRAPHY

Katherine Gagnon holds a MFA from the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA in Art History and Studio Art from Colby College. In 2011 she participated in the Summer Painting Intensive at Columbia University. She was the recipient of the Hoffberger Foundation Scholarship from 2012-2014. Her residencies include Art Farm in Marquette, Nebraska and being the Maryland Institute College of Art-St. Mary’s College of Maryland Artist House Fellow in Residence for the fall semester of 2014 at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. In 2014 she presented her paper “Art as Communication” at the International Association of Word and Image Studies Conference and the Annual Scottish Word and Image Group Conference at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

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Front Cover: Stump Oil on panel 30” x 24” 2014

Profile for Katherine Gagnon

Katherine Gagnon  

Katherine Gagnon artist book with images of work and essay by Christopher Stackhouse.

Katherine Gagnon  

Katherine Gagnon artist book with images of work and essay by Christopher Stackhouse.

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