They start off as lumps of clay, are formed and then given a name. They are nomads, fertility goddesses, painted spirits and totems that emerge from the earthy medium almost instinctually by artist Katrina Brennan.
“For me, clay is my passion, and its voice speaks loud and clear. It’s my job to listen to it the moment I touch it, and respect its wishes,” Brennan explained in her artist’s statement. “If it wants to be an ancient unclothed woman welcoming death in the form of a raven, so be it. If it wants to be a pot with a network of human organs carved on its front, I listen. Who am I to judge?”
Brennan, 38, grew up in Spokane Valley. At Central Valley High School, she spent much of her time lifting weights and making art. She attended Spokane Falls Community College, then Eastern Washington University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in education with a focus in English and a minor in art.
She worked as a substituted art teacher for about a year, had a child and became a stay-at-home mom. “After Connor was born, I spent about five years focused on painting, teaching myself realism,” she said.
Later, Brennan showed her work for a couple of years at the Gallery of Thum on North Monroe Street. Currently, she works with children through the Behavioral Education Skills Training Program and at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
A tour of her home in the Green Bluff area reveals she is able to paint just about anything. There are elaborate underwater scenes, portraits, whimsical bison and faux painting on the walls, including a space scene in Connor’s room.
While Brennan has the ability to paint whatever she or a client envisions, clay has become her new passion.
“For a while there, I got a little depressed,” she said, “I wanted more authenticity in my work, something that reflected more of who I am.” She started painting whimsical and powerful bison and began feeling a connection.
Brennan’s newest work is heavily influenced by Native American and Asian cultures, focusing on the stories and meaning behind each piece. She is part Blackfoot Indian, and her maternal great-grandmother modeled for Western artist C.M. Russell.
Her favorite is “Messenger,” a tall figure painted and carved with subtle imagery. The piece comes with a short explanation: “In many Native American cultures, the Raven is a messenger between the living and spirit worlds. Also a magician, the Raven can help us decipher the desires of our souls, and communicate with the world beyond our own.”
Since she began creating these figures, she believes she has found her purpose. “I only serve as a vehicle for the vast creativity that the universe holds.”