Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Voices

South Side artist’s portraits imagine human character

Katherine Brower  combines elements of abstract and impressionism in her art. These pieces are hanging in her South side living room.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Katherine Brower combines elements of abstract and impressionism in her art. These pieces are hanging in her South side living room. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Upon entering Katherine Brower’s South Side home, a creative energy envelops a visitor.

On the wall, visible from the front door, large paintings call to be studied, as do ones displayed above on the walls of the open-railed walkway leading to the rooms upstairs. They are portraits and then some.

“I create composition that emphasizes form of the human body and the character of the subject,” she said. Brower creates a set for her subjects: an environment of interesting shapes and colors including drapes of fabric and foliage.

Though they are portraits of people, the focal point lies not in the features but the piece as a whole blending more into a feeling.

“People are interesting,” Brower said. “Like the natural environment, they have natural form and lines, function and purpose. These paintings describe how people are tools and how they contribute rather than take.” The people in her portraits do not dominate the piece; they contribute their part to its overall composition.

On hand-built canvases, Brower paints in oils in a realistic style with abstract, edgy and organic elements. One piece shows a woman in a black head cloth staring stoically, almost defiantly, into the face of an uncertain future as her colors drip and blend into subtle abstract forms. Brower’s nudes evoke passion and movement, and her still-life studies contain a hint of the surreal. Even her self-portraits are not just her likeness but a strong feeling of a woman on a mission filled with a sense of duty.

Brower said she has always been a creatively active person but her decision to paint didn’t come until 2000. In the 1990s, Brower, 33, went to a lot of concerts and hung out with creative people. She gave birth to her first daughter in a tepee, helped build a straw bale house with her husband, became involved in World Trade Organization events and children/parent art groups, and then the “Aha” moment came.

“I started to believe in myself,” she said. “I decided that I was going to paint, to contribute my voice, and change the world in my own way even if I only changed myself.”

In 2003, Brower earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in art from Gonzaga University, where she was exposed to inspiring artists and art exhibits. Now she studies life through painting and has immersed herself in the arts community.

“Art shows are crucial,” she said. “They’re a celebration of art and a strengthening for the creative community.” You can often find her publicly sketching or painting.

She has shown her work in downtown Spokane at FSG Yoga Studio, Caterina Winery, the Railside Gallery Showroom and Prago.

Currently her work hangs in a cafe in Hunters, Wash., and at Natural Start on Hamilton Street. She also has organized shows in her home where she home-schools her two daughters and maintains a working studio where she hopes to one day teach classes.

“Art is life and life is art,” Brower said. “It’s important to approach life in a creative way.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail