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Holladay Journal

Holladay Artist of the Month paints Utah landscapes with an impressionistic flair

Oct 12, 2020 12:11PM ● By Sona Schmidt-Harris

Kate Johnson’s portrayal of water in “Bear River Refuge” is both murky and inviting. It gives no clue as to what lies beneath and is perhaps a representation of the mysterious unconscious. (Photo courtesy of Kate Johnson)

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

Holladay Artist of the Month Kate Johnson paints the Utah landscape with the blurred beauty of an impressionist. It appears natural for her to do so. However, she stated, “I think that I spent many years doing graphic design, which is always sharp and clear and, well, graphic. Maybe I just am less interested in that now.”

Armed with a BFA from the University of Utah in graphic design and later an MFA with an emphasis in illustration and printmaking, Johnson spent years as an art director and designer, primarily in publishing.

“I will still feel my heart beat faster at the sight of a beautifully designed and illustrated book,” she said. “But now, I’ve left the very tight deadlines of publishing, and I paint.” She has studied with Bonnie Posselli for the past few years. Posselli is known in part for her idyllic, pastoral scenes. 

Johnson has lived in Holladay for close to 35 years “in the same house on the same street.” Born in Salt Lake City, she left for seven years during “the middle of my wonder years” for Montana. She credits Montana for adding to her repertoire of beautiful landscapes, “a strong undercurrent in my life,” she said.

The Utah landscape continues to move her. “The colors of Utah are singular to this place, and they inspire me,” she said. Johnson is an enthusiastic member of the plein air community (people who paint outside). The community itself, which she describes as “lovely and generous,” also inspires her. 

Her favorite medium is oils. “It’s a luxury experience,” she said.

In her painting, “Winter Light,” the branches of a tree are bathed in a soft but intense yellow, like a gentle flame—a bearer of some kind of truth that needs more pondering.

In “Juniper Sketch,” the focus is on the roots and base of the tree. It somehow seems more powerful now given the recent windstorm that uprooted so many trees in the valley. There is a reaching quality to both the roots and the branches seemingly striving for both heaven and earth.

“Utah Desert Solitude,” which is currently available for purchase, provides several literal and figurative layers of interest. The sky plays a prominent role and place on the canvas. The foreground is golden but is broken up by a drop or ledge. The blurring of at least three different altitudes of hills hides crevasses and the unknown future. Still, it is serene.

Her portrayal of water in “Shelter” and “Bear River Refuge,” is both murky and inviting.  It gives no clue as to what lies beneath and is perhaps a representation of the mysterious unconscious.

Johnson’s paintings will appear on exhibit throughout the month of October at Holladay City Hall, 4580 S. 2300 East.  

If you would like to nominate a Holladay resident for Artist of the Month, please visit holladayarts.org/suggest-an-artist.

To see more of Johnson’s work, visit her Instagram account @katehjohnsonart