Katherine Strause
Artist Statement

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that
your very existence is an act of rebellion. – Camus

I want to believe that women are in charge. I enjoy watching women take control
in subversive and playful ways. My paintings contain the spirit of that rebellion.
The figures are on a mission of change; they lack inhibitions, are confident, and
have hope for the future. They are in full possession of themselves, in charge of
their space, bodies, feelings, and actions. They will not sit down and be quiet.
The works begin with found photographs of women. The subjects are experiencing
a moment of clarity and complete independence. I look for a quality of liberty in
the attitude of the sitter. They shake off constraints and stare the viewer down.

Naturally I was drawn to images of cowgirls, outlaws, and ranch women.
Daughters of pioneer ranchers grew up riding and roping along with their brothers
because, on small ranches, everyone helped with the cattle. At the heart of cowgirl
culture lies a spirit of independence, resilience, and adventure. These strong
women of the Wild West were often the backbone of their communities,
demonstrating courage, resourcefulness, and an unyielding sense of self.

The images have a magical appeal and are reminiscent of artists such as Grant
Wood, Carroll Cloar, Pierre Bonnard, and Alice Neel. Layering saturated color
with brushstrokes and wet-on-wet application increases the vibration and visual
play of the work. This focus on the expressive application of paint and extravagant
use of color transforms the black-and-white snapshots into dynamic, energetic

The work is not purely documentary or nostalgic. Using old photos of unknown
sitters give us a link to our collective past and brings a feeling of comfort and
belonging. These figures represent us all and guide us in overcoming struggle. This
work addresses the idea of transcendence, hope, and transformation. They
demonstrate courage and strength. They are about women, now and then, who are
breaking free and energetically strutting their way past any limitations.


Katherine Strause is a painter living in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is currently the Artist in Residence at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She is also a 2023-2024 Catalyze Fellow with the Mid-America Art Alliance. From 2007 until 2022 she served as Professor of Painting and Chair of the Art Department at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. 

Katherine was born in Independence, Missouri, and was raised in Conway, Arkansas, by mid-west transplants from eastern Iowa. As a Catholic school student for twelve years, she naturally began questioning authority and other established Southern social norms. Her first studio experience was at the Arkansas Arts Center at the age of eight. In her teens, Katherine created a studio of her own in her family’s attic, a small, hot space where she set up an easel and painted. 

In college, Katherine studied painting under Al Allen and Susan Chambers; both were influential in teaching her solid design, color theory, and the spirit of being an artist. As a Master’s student, she worked with printmaker Robert Malone for the first eighteen months but she missed the immediacy and tactile nature of painting and was ultimately drawn back that practice. While in school, she served as photo lab assistant and assistant preparator at the University Museum, two positions that broadened her knowledge and further convinced her to pursue a career in art.

Katherine has taught painting, drawing, design, humanities at several universities and community colleges in the mid-west and mid-south. In 2004, she was awarded the inaugural Wingate Foundation Artist in Residence in Painting at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. She served as Chair of the Art Department Professor of Painting at Henderson State University for sixteen years. In 2019, she received a nomination for the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant. 

She is currently a Mid American Art Alliance Catalyze Fellow and the Artist in Residence at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. Her paintings have been featured in over seventy juried and curated exhibitions, both at home and abroad. Her work is owned by public, corporate, and private collections, including the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, the University of Mississippi Oxford, the Historic Arkansas Museum, The University Museum at Southern Illinois University, and the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

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