Chris Kain calls her collages “paper paintings.” It’s a perfect description of the layers of hand torn pieces of colored paper that are assembled into imagined landscape images.
“Yellow Days Blue Nights” is Kain’s show of paper paintings opening at Counter Culture Cafe on March 8.
While none of Kain’s scenes are based on her watercolor sketches of the South Juan Wilderness in southern Colorado, they are affected by what she sees when she travels along a 27-mile road that follows the Conejos River.
“I’ve been going up there for 20 years,” Kain explains. “I bring a backpack filled with watercolors and put a sketch pad in my lap.”
The outdoors has been Kain’s source of artistic inspiration since childhood. She grew up on the coast of Lake Michigan, surrounded by woods and fields. During studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, she focused on creating pen and ink drawings and etchings.
For more than two decades, Kain worked as a graphic designer and illustrator in Chicago. She moved to Santa Fe in 1990. Within several years of living in New Mexico, she became too ill to work as a graphic designer and started creating pastel paintings.
Her body of paper paintings began developing during the early 2000s 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 using scissors to create her work. She prefers using knives or her hands to twist and crinkle brightly colored tissue papers into thickly-layered paintings that are backed on watercolor paper. “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 to achieve her goal of evoking a story of feeling through colors, shapes and movement.