By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Texas artist Kerry Schroeder says that her ideas for paintings often spring from two things: what’s going on in the world outside her door, and what she’s feeling inside at a particular moment in time. Those two motivations came together to inspire her piece titled STILL NO RAIN, which is about drought, she says. “I’ve heard that the Texas sage, the subject of this painting, will bloom when it’s going to rain. There is no bloom on this plant. Plus, I was experiencing an emotional drought—a struggle—when it was painted.”
As this story was going to press, Schroeder was preparing works for a December group show at Patricia Rovzar Gallery in Seattle, WA. And there was, in fact, a real drought unfolding in Austin, the city Schroeder calls home. It was the 60th straight day of temperatures over 100 degrees in the capital of the Lone Star State. The weather was oppressive, says Schroeder, but it ended up inspiring what has become one of her favorite paintings.
Schroeder’s acrylic-on-wood paintings are best described as a contemporary take on the botanical genre. More than just pretty flowers, they often juxtapose isolated leaves, flowers, and petals with spontaneous, abstract marks and shapes. These micro-portraits of nature usually tell a story while referencing life cycles, patterns, conflicts, and harmonies. Schroeder is fond of exploring dualities and opposites, such as light and dark, rough and smooth, detailed and abstract.
As a child growing up in St. Louis, MO, Schroeder says she always drew and sketched. When artists visited her classrooms, she was fascinated when they demonstrated their talents. But a career in fine art wasn’t on her radar back then—she didn’t realize that being an artist was even a possibility for her. But she did manage to nurture her artistic interests by taking various painting and drawing classes in junior and senior high school. When it came time for college she entered the University of Tulsa, where she earned a bachelor of fine art degree in graphic design with a minor in art history. Through that study of history, Schroeder grew to love Renaissance paintings that featured heroic compositions, warm color palettes, interrelationships of lights and darks, and mixtures of real and symbolic events—elements and ideas that she incorporates into her own works today.
The subject of nature has always held special allure for Schroeder. “Nature is constantly evolving in a life cycle, and it does so without ego or agenda,” she explains. “It is the purest form of the divine. Nature is bigger than all of us, and I want to be connected to something bigger than myself.”
An idea for a painting can originate from seeing a leaf on the sidewalk or a wildflower by the side of the road. Schroeder says she pays attention to what catches her eye and makes her feel a connection. Through a creative and sometimes intuitive process, she applies colors, marks, shapes, and symbols, then scrapes and wipes them away until a narrative emerges. As her work has evolved, Schroeder says, she has gradually moved from just painting what she sees to expressing more of what she feels about a subject. “I am trying to convey human experiences and emotions through the language of nature—the power, preciousness, and importance of life in all forms and the beauty of life in all of its lights and darks, highs and lows, fragilities and strengths,” she says.
Patricia Rovzar Gallery, Seattle, WA; Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; Two Moon Gallery, Nashville, TN; www.kerryschroederart.com.
Featured in November 2011.