Chris Kain calls her collages “paper paintings.” It’s a perfect description. Layers of hand-torn pieces of colored paper are assembled into imaginary landscapes.
“Yellow Days, Blue Nights” is Kain’s show of paper paintings at Counter Culture Cafe.
Kain’s scenes are based on watercolor sketches that she creates when she’s spending time in the wilderness. One of her favorite spots is the 27-mile road that follows the Conejos River in the South San Juan Wilderness of southern Colorado.
“I’ve been going up there for 20 years, from May through October,” explains Kain, who loves the outdoors and grew up on the coast of Lake Michigan, surrounded by woods and fields. “I bring a backpack filled with watercolors and put a sketch pad in my lap.”
Although Kain focused on making pen and ink drawings and etchings while studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, she established a career as a graphic designer in Chicago. For more than two decades she worked in graphic design and illustration. In 1990, she moved her business to Santa Fe. Within several years of living in New Mexico, she became too ill to work in graphic design and started creating pastel paintings.
Her body of paper paintings developed in the early 2000s, during a time when her husband was seriously ill. “I needed a way to play with art at that time,” she recalls. “I loved the spontaneity and immediacy of working with paper and playing with colors and shapes.”
Kain has never been attracted to cutting paper with scissors. She prefers using knives or her hands to twist papers into various shapes.
“With multiple layers, I am able to get a cloth-like, textural look to my work,” she adds.
Kain purposely eliminates a lot of detail in her paintings. Her goal is to evoke a story of feelings through colors, shapes and movement.