Emerging Artists | Kami Mendlik

Where a river runs through it

Kami Mendlik, Fall’s Glory, oil, 11 x 14.

Kami Mendlik, Fall’s Glory, oil, 11 x 14.

This story was featured in the April 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  April 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Painter Kami Mendlik grew up on her family’s 400-acre farm just north of Stillwater, MN, where the nearby St. Croix River carves a curvy boundary between her home state and Wisconsin. Even as a child, the self-described “endlessly curious” Mendlik studied her environs with an artist’s eye, drawing and painting everything from the landscape and river to her horses and wild roses. In doing so, she formed a profound connection with the region that fuels much of her plein-air and studio work today.

“I like spending my time beside the river and in fields,” says Mendlik. “That’s why I paint what I do. Your life is your art. I put myself where I want to be—where I’m healthiest, where I thrive, and where I’m inspired.” That very philosophy prompted the artist to move with her son and daughter to a 160-year-old farmhouse on 16 acres outside Stillwater. She converted the property’s 100-year-old hip-roof barn into a studio loft and instructional space for her school, the St. Croix River School of Painting, where she teaches representational painting with an emphasis on color.

“I’ve been here for three years now, and it feels like it’s always been a part of my life,” says Mendlik. Wetlands compose about half her acreage and provide a sanctuary for sandhill cranes and other birds that migrate through Minnesota. In Mendlik’s eyes, her land is a goldmine for paintings, and almost all her work is sourced from it, she says. The converted barn, for example, overlooks a marsh with head-high cattails that she has painted from her studio window and en plein air in winter, braving subzero temperatures.

Mendlik studied classical realism with painter Mary Pettis and trained with other artists, too. Perhaps one of her most influential teachers has been the St. Croix itself, which she has painted from life for years. The river, one of four national scenic riverways, is just six miles from Mendlik’s home. She explores its narrow back channels in a friend’s duck boat, searching for paintings along the banks. One resulting oil was a finalist in the American Women Artists national juried exhibition last September. “Being on the river,” says Mendlik, “there’s an energy I feel that comes through, in some mysterious way, in the paintings.” —Kim Agricola

representation
www.kamimendlik.com

This story was featured in the April 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  April 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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