Artist vs. Studio: Kimberly Trowbridge

Studio shot, photo courtesy the artist.

Kimberly Trowbridge completed the massive oil painting Last Days of Summer before Seattle’s brief weeks of warm weather began. Working in the Pacific Northwest, it's not surprising that a vibrant green dominates this and other works in her 2009-2010 Arcadia series of nude figures embedded in lush landscapes. While the artist’s tangible surroundings subtly factor into the work through color and form, real time, places and people are absent; instead both her paintings and studio construct unconventional utopias that only hint at ordinary existence.  —Erin Langner, Seattle contributor

Studio shots courtesy Erin Langner.

Image courtesy the artist.

A dense wall of manicured shrubs hides Trowbridge’s garage-turned-studio from the quietest of streets in Top Hat, an unincorporated neighborhood of southwest Seattle. An unusually high concentration of vintage pickup trucks and the namesake, oversized top hat that caps a local gas station foster remoteness from Seattle’s otherwise industrial urban landscape, creating the sense this place is seemingly farther than its mere seven miles from the city center.

Inside the studio, Trowbridge’s paintings cover almost every available space, creating a neatly constructed fortress of canvases. Most of the works in sight depict Trowbridge’s definitive, sensual characters enacting rapturous motions as they dissolve into their fractured surroundings.  Western art historical imagery of a garden-like world characterizes the Arcadia series that independently appears pure fantasy; seen beside the artist’s monochromatic backyard, similar organic hues extend between the real space and the imagined, suggesting a thread of continuity between the two.

Kimberly Trowbridge. ABOVE: The Gift Horse. 2011. Oil on canvas. 48 x 60 inches. BELOW: Plantlife. 2010. Oil on canvas. 60 x 68 inches. Images courtesy the artist.

As the weather lightens and the days extend, Trowbridge’s newest series of paintings darkens. Reaching beyond the Renaissance books collected across her shelves and tables, works such as The Dark Horse signal an entirely new thematic direction more rooted in imagery of the American West. No object or aspect of the studio hints at the course of these new explorations. Yet, ideas generated in the artist’s hilltop retreat clearly find the precise space they need to expand into the complex worlds of her brushstrokes.

Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Adult Public Programs Coordinator at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

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