By Bonnie Gangelhoff
When Kate Sammons received the top award for a still-life painting at the recent Scottsdale Salon of Fine Art, held at Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, she was surprised and overwhelmed. Her elegant tableau, THE BLUE HOUR, had captivated the judge and collectors alike. The painting was inspired by the simple desire to explore color harmonies and textures, Sammons says. “I also was struck by the reflection on the bottle of the church across the street [from my studio],” she adds.
The award is one in a string of recent honors Sammons has received for both her figurative and still-life works. Last year she won a top prize at the prestigious Portrait Society of America’s annual competition for PORTRAIT OF EMMA. The same painting garnered first place in a recent Art Renewal Center contest.
Today Sammons maintains a studio in an artists’ complex on the northern edge of downtown Los Angeles. She considers her life as a painter an enormous gift. Reflecting back on her childhood growing up in Urbana-Champaign, IL, she recalls that she always felt like an artist in her soul, but she didn’t think such a career was possible. “I used to try and imagine going back in history and being someone like Leonardo da Vinci. It was more like a fiction then,” she says.
As a youngster she loved to draw cartoons, often copying comic strips from the Sunday newspaper. Eventually her parents enrolled her in community art classes. But it was in high school, where she took her first formal art classes, that she received encouragement from her teachers and started to win painting competitions with her watercolors.
When it came time for college, Sammons entered the fine-arts program at the University of Illinois in her hometown. From the start, professors cautioned her that the life of an artist was difficult. But Sammons was undaunted. Following graduation she embarked on a serious round of artistic study, most importantly with Anthony Waichulis at his atelier, The Waichulis Studio in Mountain Top, PA (now known as the Àni Art Academy Waichulis). What she learned there underlies the techniques and practices she now incorporates into her works to express her personal visions.
As the years have passed, increased confidence has allowed her to change and grow as an artist, she says. These days she is concentrating on incorporating a sense of movement in her paintings. “It’s about wanting more creative freedom in the pictures I create,” Sammons says. “There is a sense of excitement I associate with movement.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is her longstanding enthusiasm for the objects she paints in her still lifes—the vessels, fabrics, and furniture that come from her travels to places like India, Morocco, and Japan. Handmade items, which represent traditions passed down through generations, hold special allure for her. She relishes centuries-old customs, from techniques for weaving wool to recipes for creating fabric dyes. Her fascination with various cultures, she thinks, may stem from the fact that she was born in Seoul, South Korea, and adopted by an American family who was also intrigued by global cultures. For her, depicting objects within the narrative of a painting adds another layer of appreciation. “Art, for me, has been a way to transcend many boundaries, both social and cultural,” Sammons says. “It appeals to my humanity, inspires a heightened sensitivity to life, and gives quality to my experiences.”
Her art is successful, she says, if it conveys what she calls “a complete experience. The experience starts with a believable, compelling picture. I then try to present a story that makes viewers think,” Sammons says. “In the end, I hope viewers are left with a sense of order, clarity, and general openness and thankfulness about life.”
Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Gallery 1261, Denver, CO.
Group show, Gallery 1261, October 7-November 5.
Group drawing show, Legacy Gallery, October 20-November 20.
Traditional Impressions show, Legacy Gallery, February 2012.