Artist Catherine Freshley could easily be called a historian; years from now, people will look at her work and see, through her eyes, the simple beauty of the past.
“I can’t not respond to the beauty of the landscapes I see. Most of the time, my presence in any given place is so finite, even fleeting, since I often paint from photos I take while driving, that I want to hold on to it somehow,” she said. “I feel somehow connected. So I paint it.”
At 26, Freshley has plenty of time to record her findings and, although her styles or subjects might change, the root of her creations will stay true: to remember and to preserve.
Freshley was born and raised in Portland, and she has spent a lot of time in Oysterville, a small town on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula where her father was raised. While Freshley’s peers vacationed in more trendy coastal areas, she spent time in a place where clamming, playing in the woods, preserving food in smokehouses and fixing things were the norm – and almost magical to her as a young girl.
“It was/is special. It’s a place that’s a privilege; to have access to such natural beauty and where people benefit from natural resources rather than abuse them,” she said. “I don’t know why Oysterville has had such an impact on me but I want it to always exist as I knew it.”
To experience something new, Freshley headed off to Tulane University in New Orleans, where she graduated with a degree in economics and English. After college, she got a job at an advertising agency in the area. She got married on the front porch of a beach house at Oysterville and moved to Spokane after her husband was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base.
While in New Orleans, Freshley showed her paintings at a gallery in the French Quarter and at the city’s popular Freret Market. She also began making her work available online. When she moved to Spokane, she considered doing art full time, but the agency she worked for in New Orleans offered her a full-time position where she could work remotely and she took it, allowing her the freedom to simply step into the converted bedroom that is her studio and paint when the urge hits her.
“I’ve found that I can go for a couple or few weeks without painting until I feel something is missing,” she said. “Even if I paint for just a half hour, I feel better.”
Freshley paints in acrylic on canvas or wood; breathtaking scenes from New Orleans to Oysterville and places in between like the many faces of the Palouse. Her mixed media pieces include mementos such as love letters and scanned photos layered beneath hand-painted images, capturing moments and preserving memories.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.