For most of her life, Kate Protage has been a wanderer. Growing up, she and her family lived in more than 18 different places of suburban sprawl. As an adult, she shifted toward more urban environments, but continued the same pattern of movement. Despite her best efforts, she’s never traveled light—the hobo’s stick from the fairytales was, in her case, a large moving van full of comfortable furniture, hundreds of shoes, and boxes upon boxes of canvases. Along the way, she earned a BA in studio art from Smith College and an MFA in painting with academic distinction from Pratt Institute. She then moved to Seattle, her home for the past eight years.
Somewhere in between, Kate cultivated a decade-long career in marketing, but over time she found her way back to painting. Flashes of the perfect composition crept back into her head until the desire to paint again became so strong that she quit her corporate job and set up a studio. Today, Kate is a full-time artist who regularly shows her work at galleries in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Princeton, New York, and Seattle. In Seattle, she does her best to keep up with the resourceful gallery team at the Seattle Art Museum’s Sales and Rental Gallery. Her artwork has recently been included in three books: The Better Bombshell, an anthology in which writers and artists redefine the female role model, Look Up Here: Five Years of NW Urban and Contemporary Art by Bherd Studios Gallery, and Painted Landscapes: Contemporary Views by art consultant Lauren P. Della Monica (due May 2013).
Kate’s work is a reflection of the love/hate relationship that she has had with the cities in which she has lived. Depending on the time of day, there are two worlds that exist in the same physical space: streets that appear gritty, dirty and depressing by day turn into an environment infused with a strange kind of lush, dark beauty and romance at night. These are the moments that remind her that there is still beauty in the world, despite all of the chaos that surrounds us. Painting these moments is Kate’s minor act of rebellion.
Her process hints at a slightly obsessive, meticulous nature. The drawings underneath her paintings can take days to create; yellow ochre lines get repeatedly drawn and wiped out until she’s satisfied with the composition. Once down, the carefully blocked forms and shapes eventually turn into something else. Layers of paint that are transparent and opaque, thick and thin are applied one after another, back and forth, until everything overlaps and interacts. Intense colors, shapes, and textures develop out of a process that can sometimes look loose, but is in fact highly controlled.
While Kate’s paintings are rooted in the real, it is the junction between sensation and fact that interests her. Her paintings are meant to exist in that grey area between representation and abstraction, where light and solid form are given equal consideration and are almost interchangeable. Recognizable objects become almost incidental—it is the detail of an individual shape, an expressive brush stroke, and the way that everything comes together that generates excitement. The moments may pass, but the feelings remain.
ARTerrain Gallery by Kate Protage
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All images in this ARTerrain Gallery are copyright © by Kate Protage. All rights reserved. No work may be used or reproduced without express written consent of the artist.