Art for all to see
Downtown freshens up with public art program
Sam Green/Cortez Journal
Public art speaks volumes. Its voice lends itself to artists well-versed in the subject.
Kathleen King listens to art. She speaks art. She loves art.
She crafts murals to talk about it publicly.
“People don’t always appreciate public art,” King says. “But when they do, it’s the most gratifying part of being an artist.”
She is an expressionist. She believes that art is human, that a trait of human nature is to create. It is a connection to the past. Murals are cultural representatives all over the world.
In this case, King helps to represent this community and its culture.
Her latest mural, “Water Equals Life,” is on the west wall of Slavens True Value Hardware store. The 100-foot space on Linden Street is a living spectacle of life in the Four Corners area.
“When doing a mural you have to ask yourself who your audience is,” she explains. “If you can see it walking around the block, don’t put it on the wall.”
That expression is her personal guideline because a mural is elemental. Its content and message exist on various levels so depending on where someone stands, one may not see the big picture.
Drive down Main Street and the mural is whole. Walk down the sidewalk and there are fine tuned details at work. King will analyze the mural step-by-step. After all, public art exists to make the brain think.
“It’s in your face. It can’t be ignored,” she says. “It makes you think about something other than paying the bills.”
The development of this mural was not solely up to her. It came from the mind of King and nine high school students from Cortez, Dolores and Mancos. Each panel incorporates the beauty that makes up Cortez and its surrounding areas.
The cultural past is shown in the magic of winter. Its hidden towns are prevalent in springtime. There is water, wildlife and nature.
This last display of public art belongs to a city beautification project. The project’s sole purpose is to bring vibrancy and revival to Main Street. Starting in 2010, it shows remarkably positive results.
Chris Burkett, Grants and Special Projects Administrator for the City of Cortez, is on the mural project committee.
“People from every walk of life comment on them,” Burkett says. “They have different reactions but they’re curious. Not everyone may like the art but they appreciate it as art.”
The idea comes from a committee of downtown business members, Susan Keck, Shawn Collins, Mitchell Toms and Greg Kemp.
“The city should get kudos for actively trying to have different styles of murals,” King says. “Some cities have very strict guidelines.”
King’s first contribution is entitled “The Rancher.” It’s on Mr. Happy’s Bakery and Cafe. This mural is a style that King refers to as scribbles or scribbling, a form of action painting that represents movement and energy.
“It is physical,” she says. “Art is physical and that’s what the scribbling represents. I can’t do that on a computer.”
The artists must bend, reach and climb to achieve their purpose. Their bodies must prepare just as their minds do. King says she has to switch painting positions to keep from getting stuck like that.
They aren’t working in the comfort of their own home and sometimes the weather is unforgiving.
“It was 40 degrees in November. I had to wait until the sun was shining on the wall because that meant it was warm enough to be out,” she says with a chuckle.
“Water Equals Life,” ironically, is also physically demanding. The mural has been complete since the beginning of September. They put their brushes to the wall at the end of May, working through the summer.
“This was the opposite. The heat was difficult to contend with. I had to work a few hours in the morning and then again in the evening.”
King is not complaining. The work of a muralist may be physically tough, but she looks forward to it all. Every aspect of creation is welcome in her book.
She enjoys the finished product.
She enjoys the appreciation.
“I look forward to the end,” she says. “I look forward to my next project knowing another is complete.”
She currently works on a few commissions. Besides murals, she also “scribbles” on canvases.
However, her passion is public art and she urges those who pass by to pay attention. To listen. Public art speaks.
Those scribbles are actually an inner voice, masquerading as brushstrokes.
King hears it.