Past on paper | June 28, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - June 28, 2013

Past on paper

Artist remembers lost urban flowers and plants in her prints

by Elize Manoukian

Even long after they're gone, certain spaces leave lasting impressions of happiness or longing. For artisan printmaker Kathryn Kain, these memories can create inspiration.

A neighborhood that was once residential at the Hunters Point naval base in San Francisco provides the vision for her upcoming exhibition, "Gone to the Wild," now at the Mohr Gallery at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View.

Kain moved to the Bay Area from Toledo, Ohio, in 1979, and received her post-baccalaureate degree in printmaking from the California State University at Hayward under the tutelage of legendary Bay Area artist Kenjilo Nanao. During this time, Kain joined a movement of artists to colonize Hunters Point after the Navy abandoned it in the 1970s. While the old shipyards were leased and renovated into studios, the former homes fell into disuse and disarray.

"Especially in our urban area, we can never find a space that's just uninhabited and empty," Kain says. "(The houses) were covered with plants that had just gone wild."

As it became apparent that the neighborhood would be developed, Kain said, she returned to the location as often as possible, taking hundreds of photos and collecting flowers and plants to take back to her studio.

"In my mind, it was like I had to do it, because of the feeling that place gave me. ... You just don't see something like that every day," she said.

The surreal collection now on exhibit at CSMA features a number of large-scale prints that juxtapose images of women with a more natural element. "As a female I identify with that," Kain says. "I did a ton of figurative work early on but ... I started doing still-life because I wanted to not rely on photography, to bring things into my studio and draw from life."

Kain now balances her time in the studio with work as an instructor of etching, lithography and monotype for Stanford University and other institutions, and with her career as a master printmaker for Smith Andersen Editions, a Palo Alto gallery and press. Kain works with fine artists, providing technical expertise and skill to facilitate their work. Kain also volunteers for nonprofit organizations such as the San Francisco-based ArtSeed, which offers free art classes to underprivileged children; and hosts workshops at Smith Andersen.

Although the collaborative nature of much of her work makes it a challenge to dedicate time to her own art, Kain says that seeking out those experiences comes with its own value. "If I'm in my studio every day alone, it can be nice, but I'm not really a part of the world."

What: "Gone to the Wild," an exhibit of prints by Kathryn Kain

Where: Mohr Gallery, Community School of Music and Arts, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View

When: Through July 28. Gallery hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 3.

Cost: Free.

Info: Go to or call 650-917-6800, extension 306.


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