Kathryn Stedham Biography
Kathryn Stedham is one of those artists who find their path early in life, secure in the knowledge that the artist’s way is their way, the only way, with no epiphany necessary.
Having trained as an Academic Realist, Stedham became a figurative painter while living on the East Coast. She took up rock-climbing and traveled the world, scaling rock formations everywhere from Thailand to Africa to Yosemite as her painting style evolved into something more abstract. But it wasn’t until she moved West in 2005, first to Utah and later New Mexico, that she found herself drawn to painting the heart-stirring landscapes, gradually shifting from an abstract to a gestural Alla Prima style with a strong Modernist sensibility.
“I learned how to find my own voice within the landscape,” she says. “You can’t hide here, you’re laid open, and I found the landscape to be a healing force in my life. When I’m out in it, I feel small— I dissolve into the vastness. I feel an urgency to portray this space, rooting out the mystic snippets of a quickly vanishing landscape. I seek to capture its raw and often awkward elegance in the rapidly changing light, vast distances, rugged escarpments, colorful mesas and hidden arroyos—to excavate the bones of existence in this terrain where the West is still wild and free, and to become an explorer of this ineffable mystery.”
This approach to the landscape is uniquely Stedham’s own. She heads out into it several times a week to study the terrain and absorb the vibe, noting the colors and characteristics. She often paints en plein air, and she uses that same technique even when working in the studio, where she applies her finely tuned visual acuity to recalling the details of the land, eschewing preliminary sketches or photographs in favor of diving straight into the scene and trusting her well-trained hand to render it accurately. Her experience as a rock climber allows her to understand the rocks and formations in a tactile, more personal way, and she is thus able to imbue the scenes with a subtle narrative quality that evokes the region’s backstory of geologic turbulence and eternal mystery. In keeping with her classical training, she prefers a limited palette like that of the Old Masters, using only five colors from which she can mix any color she needs. “I’ve never just worked out of a tube,” she notes.
Her combination of experience and skill allow Stedham to create scenes that are contemplative but grounded, blending representational, abstract, and gestural expression in landscapes that encourage the viewer to step out of linear time and experience the ageless wonder of the Southwest from the artist’s unique perspective. Kathryn Stedham’s paintings can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada. In addition to her studio practice, Stedham is an avid horsewoman, regularly participating in both Hunter/Jumper and Western riding disciplines. She also enjoys international travel and is a long-time student of the Sanbo lineage of Zen Buddhism.
Moving to the West in 2005 was a life-changing event that brought me face-to-face with a true calling: painting the infinite spaces of the American Southwest. Little did I realize at the time, that this would combine two personal rudiments: painting and contemplation. Forever fascinated with stories about the West and Westward Expansion, I would happily board a time machine, if there were such a thing, to experience first-hand this important period in American history and our connection to the land. I feel an urgency to portray this space, rooting out the mystic snippets of a quickly vanishing landscape. I seek to capture its raw and often awkward elegance in the rapidly changing light, vast distances, rugged escarpments, colorful mesas and hidden arroyos—to excavate the bones of existence in this terrain where the West is still wild and free and to be an explorer of this ineffable mystery.
I was trained as an Academic Realist and began my career as a figurative painter. But my interest evolved, through a period of pure abstraction, into the gestural Alla Prima painting style I use today. This approach combines representational landscape forms with an expressionistic modernist sensibility.
I have been an exhibiting artist for over 35 years and my work has been featured in public and private collections throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada. I am also a long-time student in the Sanbo lineage of Zen Buddhism. In addition to my studio practice, I travel internationally, ride horses and teach oil painting workshops. I currently live and work in Santa Fe, New Mexico.