By Dr. Laura Amrhein
“A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”
Using discarded or found photographs as the basis for her compositions, Katherine Strause gives the individuals in her paintings another life and dimension when they could have easily just have been discarded or forgotten. Given a collection of estate photographs from the 1920s and 1950s furthered her interest in memory and how memories are made and kept alive. She once asked—“who will look at our photos when we are gone?” But her paintings are not purely documentary or nostalgic as Strause alters and re-arranges the compositions to provide us with candid, colorful, psychological glimpses into the lives of young girls, women, family, and friends. Painters have long used photography as a way to help them recall and capture fleeting moments and experiences in their studios. Strause flips that process on its head by using ready-made snap shots and turns them into something new. These are real people with real lives—most originally posed for a photographer (first viewer) and now pose for Strause who bravely takes liberty in re-interpreting. She states “…I approach these images as subject matter and create my own relationship with these individuals. These portraits possess a look of determination and hope. They represent us all.”
Arbus’s quote “A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know” seems fitting when viewing this latest collection of Strause’s paintings. She engages the viewer to look closer at these individuals. What are their secrets? Do they know something we don’t? If we figure them out, will we learn something about ourselves? Strause has formed her own relationship with these individuals and now she asks us to do the same.