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

It is my belief that women are really in charge. Do we get to show it very often? No, but often we are taking control in playful, quiet and oftentimes subversive ways. My paintings contain the spirit of that rebellion. The figures are on a mission of change; they lack inhibitions and are confident in their opinions and the future. They are in full possession of themselves, in charge of their space, their bodies, their feelings, and their actions. No one could ever make them sit down.

In my home studio, I transform found vintage photographs into paintings of women. The subjects are presented at a moment of clarity and complete freedom. With a clandestine look, these images give us insight about the path all women take. The figures contort to exist on their own terms; sometimes they jump and run to shake off constraints. Sometimes they stare the viewer down, in an intense appeal for what is right. The collective consciousness plays a strong role in these works. The paintings have magical appeal; the subject matter and visual technique are inspired by great artists such as Carroll Cloar and Alice Neel. 

My paintings are not purely documentary or nostalgic. I alter the compositions to provide a glimpse into the attitudes of the sitters. I use expressive, vibrant painting techniques developed during my undergraduate studies where I painted non-objectively. This focus on the expressive application of paint and extravagant use of color followed me from a non-objective approach to figurative work. In my work, color changes the level of energy experienced and helps reveal the content of the piece. 

My paintings address the ideas of transcendence, hope and transformation. They explore courage and strength. They are about women, their work, friendships, struggles and the social constraints experienced by each generation.

Katherine Strause


Katherine Strause is a painter living in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the retired 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. Katherine started work at Henderson State University  in 2007, where she  impacted young art students and directed a successful studio program. 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.

Using Format