Artist Bio

Artist Bio

Portrait of me standing at the top of Steptoe Butte in Washington State during a photographic research expedition. Photo credit: Schierman Photography.

My drawings spring from the inspiration of living and traveling in some of the most spirit-embodied places in the world. I focus on the iconic American Palouse intent on depicting the delicate environmental balance of nature and its relationship to agricultural production and human consumption. I am fascinated by natural form, rhythm, texture, light, and shadow. Every location offers a unique landscape formed by geology, the elements, and human endeavor. My iMovie Trailer visually describes my mission to depict the American treasure known as the Palouse.

"Although based in Washington, D. C., landscape artist Katherine Nelson has regularly traveled across the continent since the early 2000s to Washington State’s legendary Palouse Country of undulating grainlands to capture the summertime chiaroscuro of swirling slopes, saddles, and swales. She traces threads of her fascination with the region to her diplomat father’s interest in Turkish rugs: “I remember their textures and shapes which influenced my affection for rolling landscapes. The Palouse is a tapestry of woven connections among seasons, fields, and people. The effect is thoroughly spiritual and provides a place of reflection, solace, and beauty that overcomes the noise of the outside world.” To emphasize the effects of light for line and shadow, Nelson works entirely in black-and-white which evokes heightened awareness of layering, texture, and movement. “My ‘Portraits of the Palouse,’” she explains, “are metaphors for the human prospect. ‘Harvests’ to me are exhibitions that depict the land as hallowed space through views of heritage farm architecture and landscape vistas. Implicit rural values relate to the natural environment, hard work, and community, and are relevant anywhere.”1  ----Dr. Richard Scheuerman, Author, Palouse Historian and President of Palouse Heritage. 1. "Hallowed Harvests".  Chapter 10. Tradition in Flight. Country Life in Modern Expression. 

Farming is in my family roots. My Danish grandfather immigrated to the USA and managed a farm in the Boston area. As a child, I continually witnessed my parents' appreciation of unusual locales spurred by a love of learning and interest in connecting with the people of those communities. My father and mother were the first people to import the Akbash and Kangal Dog Breeds of Turkey to North America establishing breed standards and an official dog registry in the late 70’s. Over many years, my parents established trade relationships with village shepherds to obtain the best breed bloodlines that exist today. Their kind of curiosity is what influences my approach to making art and asking questions. Seeking to understand implied stories enriches and enhances my approach to creativity. The landscapes of heritage farms contain hidden stories of survival and fortitude. "Know Your Farmer" and "Eat Local" are slogans of the ever growing changes in regional food economies and the Farm to Table concept. An interdependent network of grain communities across America and interest in artisanal foods and beverages with unusual varieties of grain is creating a grain revival. I am fascinated with these phenomenal changes to our food system as well as ancient, landrace, and rare grains. I attend grain conferences to understand the practical, health, science, environmental, and economic issues surrounding grains. It is my belief that one cannot draw the landscape without digging deeper to find the hidden stories that are within the amazing world of grain.

I was born in 1964 in the Hague, Holland and spent 15 years living abroad in Holland, Germany, Turkey, and most recently in Brussels, Belgium from 2007-2010. My expatriate assignments instilled in me an appreciation for art, inspirational travel, history, and cultural immersion that continues to influence my work today. I graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Skidmore College in 1985 and earned a Master of Arts in 1990 from SUNY Albany in Drawing. I have had the honor of teaching Art Education to over ten thousand students in public schools in America over a fifteen year period before having my own family and going into the private education sector to balance my studio, family, and teaching time.  I’ve lived on both the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and exhibit my drawings in solo, invitational, and juried exhibitions in the United States and Europe. 

While I usually work in two dimensions, in 2014, I took on the three-dimensional challenge of designing four of the 250 fiberglass painted cakes for the City of St. Louis’ 250th Birthday Celebration public art installation. My cake designs were exhibited at Jefferson Barracks, Pere Marquette State Park, Busch Stadium, and the East St. Louis Municipal Offices of Mayor Alvin Parks, Jr.  In 2014, I was invited to participate in the international exhibition organized by  titled AMEN: A Prayer for the World. The exhibit featured Eastern and Western artists seeking to "express the deep, fundamental human acknowledgement of power and hope in the universe for all peoples".  The exhibition brought together 48 artists and took place at the Cairo Opera House, Cairo, Egypt, The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC.

I’ve had my work selected for various forms of print and film media, ranging from me playing the part of “the artist” for a Carolina’s Healthcare System television commercial (and creating the drawings for the set) to appearing in a short artist feature film for the opening of my solo exhibition at the United States Embassy in Brussels. The design team for ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover show selected my drawing "Surf Rock" for their episode Extreme Home Makeover: North Idaho. My work has been on the cover of the national poetry journal Willow Springs (issues 67, 68 and 69) and in 2010 and 2012, I was commissioned by singer/songwriter and public radio host, Kevin Brown, to design two brand identity CD covers.

In addition to my studio practice, I produced art events that engaged youngsters in creative thinking and problem solving. I’ve found that children are fascinated by charcoal drawing and the range of possibilities it offers as a medium. I wrote the “Eurovillage: Unity in Diversity Mural Project" model, which was presented during a weekend educational forum at the Palais de Tokyo Museum in Paris, France, and I created “The Learning Garden,” an IB curriculum concept that engaged every student in a topiary garden design installation featuring renowned topiary artist, Pearl Fryar, for the Davidson I.B. Middle School in North Carolina.