Tracing Technology: Painting with Kim Cadmus Owens

Kim Cadmus Owens (NAP #78 and #102) creates large oil paintings that are striking in color and subject.  Glancing at a work such as “Smoke and Mirrors” or the “Alamo,” you feel as if you are moving with her paintings at the speed of light.

Smoke and Mirrors: coming and going
Kim Cadmus Owens | Smoke and Mirrors: coming and going, 2011acrylic and oil on canvas, 48” x 156” UF (diptych)

Owens found inspiration for her work amidst technology blunders and anomalies, such as frozen, overtaxed computer screens and fragmented desktop patterns.  Embedding these within her land- and cityscapes, Owens also places the viewer amidst bright and bold scenes.  Many of these locales are reminiscent of old, empty, western wastelands – featuring what appear to be aged or abandoned buildings.  However, because she amps up the color and imbues them with such a force of their own, and because she fragments her works with impending lines and fractures, they feel alive, burgeoning, and even hectic.  The heightened feeling she creates is amplified by the visually pleasing nature of her oil paint eye candy.  Her work makes me want to be on that road trip she is on, but in the meantime as I am speeding on the freeway on my own, her paintings inspire me to see things quite differently and much more brightly.  – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor

All images courtesy of the artist and Holly Johnson Gallery.
2. kim_cadmus_owens_lounge
Kim Cadmus Owens | Lounge, 2008, oil on canvas, 48” x 48”

Ellen Caldwell: Please tell me a little bit about your works such as “Alamo,” “Lounge,” and “Smoke and Mirrors: coming and going,” recently featured in NAP 102.  What inspired you or what did you hope to achieve/convey?

Kim Cadmus Owens: “Lounge” was the first in a body of work I call “Reading Between the Lines.”  All of the structures are mid-century and my objective was to create spaces that the viewer would be drawn into but at the same time that entry would be disrupted.  I wanted to bring these nostalgic structures into present because they still exist and many of them are imperiled and go unnoticed.

Kim Cadmus Owens | Alamo, 2009, acrylic and oil on canvas, 64” x 96"
4. desktop_anomaly1
Desktop anomaly the artist sites as one source of inspiration for her fragmented and linear upsets amidst her land- and cityscape paintings.

EC: I love the blurred lines of traffic and light that you trace and amplify in your oil paintings (especially in a work such as “Alamo”).  You mention the "effects of digital technology on our sense of place" and I think this is a really interesting concept.  Could you discuss it a bit more?

KCO: Much of our contemporary experience of the world is mediated by some form of mobile digital device.  The lines, striations, and flat shapes are references to that connection or even disconnection.  I came upon these abstract elements by taxing computer processors while working with digital images back in grad school – I was really good at crashing computers. I came to think of these glitches as elements that made me aware and often irritated by the limits of the human-computer interface. In the end they are a visual language used to pose questions.

5. development sign used for Coming and Going
Development sign, inspiration for Owens’ painting Smoke and Mirrors: coming and going.
6. Coming and Going google street view
Google Street View, another inspiration for Owens’ painting Smoke and Mirrors: coming and going.

EC: Do you actually visit the places you are painting or is it imagined or from memory?

KCO: Yes. They are often places I pass regularly or encounter taking paths less traveled.  I see and visit them repeatedly and document the experience through drawings, digital photography, and interactive maps like Google Street View.  They are places that stick out in my memory in a very physical way.  They also signify something about our history and relationship to the landscape. Painting them is a way of conjuring my experience of them and bringing them into evidence for others.

7. owens_kim_cadmus_712fortworthave
Kim Cadmus Owens | 712 Fort Worth Ave, 2011, ink on cotton paper - letterpress print, 14 x 20 inches (unframed), 17 x 23 inches (framed)
2214 Bryan
Kim Cadmus Owens | 2214 Bryan Street, 2012, ink on cotton paper - letterpress print, 14 x 20 inches (unframed), 17 x 23 inches (framed)

 EC: Have you always been an oil painter or did coming to that medium take awhile? How does oil impact your process?

KCO: I was trained as a painter and that direction was largely influenced by my mother who also paints.  I love the materiality, physicality, and versatility of oils.  They have the ability to hold a solid, weighty mark and then at the other end of the spectrum, they facilitate soft atmospheric effects.  To me they are the perfect contrast to the digital aspects of my process and are a sort of embodiment of my human experience. They take time and patience.

Kim Cadmus Owens | Cheap, 2009, acrylic and oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches.
Portrait of the artist Kim Cadmus Owens.


Born and raised in Texas, Kim Cadmus Owens moved to Dallas in 2006 after having lived on both the East and West Coasts as well as in Japan. She received her MFA in art from Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland, and her BFA in painting and drawing from the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, California.

Owens' work has been exhibited nationally at venues such as the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, Islip Art Museum in New York as well as numerous galleries. Her most recent solo exhibition titled, Reading Between the Lines, was held at Holly Johnson Gallery in Dallas by whom she is represented.  Cadmus’s work will be featured in an upcoming show “Kim Cadmus Owens & Allison V. Smith” at the Gallery at UTA in Arlington, Texas from February 25 – March 30, 2013.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, writer, and editor.


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