If someone is characterized as “short,” “chipper” or “stubborn,” it will immediately implant an image about the person being described. Although not often contemplated, there are strong implications associated with language. And, despite there being no standard of what the line is for “short,” as it’s all relative to someone’s own height and experiences, people instantly envision what short means to them when specific traits are mentioned. Further, in looking at art, a title can completely change the how a piece is seen by its viewer, especially in the abstract genre, which relies more on composition, color and imagery than fine lines and precision.
Campbell—based artist Kathryn Arnold, a professor at West Valley College, is exploring the concept of language, and how language shapes the way the world is seen, in her first solo show, “The Impact of Language” at the Triton Museum of Art.
Often using poetry as inspiration for the titles of her work — after a piece is painted — Arnold’s abstract paintings will cause viewers pause as they look for images associated with the titles and descriptions she has chosen.
“The idea is when I was painting [the pieces for the show], I was not thinking about the poem,” said Arnold, a University of Kansas graduate. “But, when I applied the title, someone will start to look for [objects relating to it] … the idea is that language causes to you interpret what you see.”
Often using thick brush strokes and slabs of color, Arnold’s oil paintings utilize multiple layers that peak off the canvas. “Oil is such a forgiving medium. I’ve done some monoprints and that should be very forgiving because you can manipulate it on the sheet, but [oil paint] is where I’m just actively engaged and it’s fun … [and] I like the physicality of the paint when I get [raised layers] … I don’t think I’ve ever made a painting without layers,” Arnold said, adding with a laugh, “I can’t comprehend how that’s done.”
On another level, some of Arnold’s pieces — larger works consisting of 100 smaller canvases — are meant to incite creativity and discuss infinity. Each of the smaller canvases has a Velcro backing and is connected to a strip, allowing an infinite number of possibilities. And, although they were painted in an orderly manner, the canvases were created with the intent to be moved around within the square, which is an innovative idea considering most multi—pieced paintings, including diptychs and triptychs, are meant to be hung in a specific way. “This is like a physical form for the idea of infinity,” she said. “My goal is to one day have these digital and get someone to create a program for me where I can move them around.”
“The Impact of Language” opened on Feb. 14 at 1505 Warburton Ave. The show will run through Mar. 29. An artist reception is scheduled for this Friday, Feb. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. Visit http://tritonmuseum.org/exhibitions_KathrynArnold.php or www.kathrynarnold.com/ for more information.