Kathy Stark "The Wilderness of North Florida"
Kathy Stark has done something with her artwork that is gently inviting and amazingly powerful. This is art with a message, but the message is so thoroughly entwined with the paintings themselves it is hard to call this advocacy art. Her descriptive realistic watercolor paintings of the natural environment of Florida are done with a linear fluidity and playful detail that is delightful and easy to enjoy. Additionally, the scale of her paintings and her choice of color so effectively replicate the look of natural Florida. A viewer can feel affirmed in their own significance by association with being present in such dramatic natural locations and that affirming experience is what these paintings encourage.
Research shows that there are important positive correlations between human health, intelligence and nature. Adults who work in spaces incorporating nature into their design are more productive, healthy and creative; and hospital patients with a view of nature from their window heal faster. If we lose our connection with nature, what might it mean for our planet? Biophobia, a term coined by E.O Wilson, can range from a fear of being in nature, to contempt for what is not man-made and managed, to an attitude that nature is nothing more than a disposable resource.
While indeed you may have seen many of her paintings in this series before, there are new works here; and though the paintings in “The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks” can be categorized as conventional, these works are more than that. They speak to the power of both simple line and color to express a profound and necessary human connection to nature. The paintings dwell in our man-built environment, but they call to something deeper in us, that natural something that we experience as the core of our humanity. When you head out into nature it is for reasons more than recognizing leaves and trees and sky. Your mind goes places that are, … shall I say implied? You are in physical contact with nature but also in the abstract arena of thoughts and feelings, intuition. Researchers at the University of Rochester report that exposure to the natural environment leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, value community, and to be more generous with money. Your best instincts are stirred with this exhibit. Enjoy the beauty of the paintings. Know that we live in the place that inspired them.