I am, at heart, a storyteller. My paintings tell stories that do not fit into words. They tell of color, shape, movement, and of the energetic landscape of the world as I experience it. Since my teens I have been drawn to abstract art — its capacity for tension, it’s ability to capture emotion. My first teacher, in my college years, was the abstract expressionist Albert Alcalay. His encouragement launched me on a serpentine path that led me to the present, where I split my time between writing and painting.

My work always begins with a feeling. Often it’s an uncomfortable feeling that is related to something in the world over which I’m powerless, and for which I don’t have adequate words. Painting allows a simultaneity, layers of feelings to create impact. When I was in college I started going to museums and sitting for 20-40 minutes in front of a single painting. Yes, I would scrutinize the brushwork and composition, but most of that time I was marveling at how the painting was making me feel. Sometimes is was the pain it captured; other times, the peacefulness.

When a friend visited unexpectedly a couple of years ago, one of my paintings was propped up on the mantel so that I could live with it daily, decide whether it was complete or not. Varying light, the passage of a few days, can show me what I need to do next, or confirm that the piece is finished. My friend saw it and immediately gasped, “Oh, the old man!” If I hadn’t been in my own space, alone, I would have begun looking behind me for an old man. But he was, for her, in the painting. That piece was part of a group of paintings on paper that I did in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, so it was a perfect sighting — regardless of my not having painted an old man, or at least not knowingly.

At its foundation, art connects us. If I can paint something that touches you, whom I do not know, that experience affirms for a moment, for each of us, the common humanity we all share. If a painting inspires, if it instigates conversation, if it delights… if you feel, then I have successfully done what I set out to do.

Kathryn Sandow

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