The human subject never fails to fascinate. Capable of kinetic action and infinite expression, it also is compelling in repose. We love to examine each other, or perhaps it is narcissistic self-obsession as a species. Painter Cathy Shepherd understands that stillness does not necessarily equal an inert state for human beings.
“People have been my main focus through the years. I like to capture the moment of decisions. To some people, this just looks like sitting around, but to me it's the time when things are churning and clicking; the moment before someone says, "That's it! That's what I'm going to do," and jumps up and runs toward that thing. As a result, my compositions are becoming less surrounding, more close-up.”
“But I still have to paint, even when a subject can't pose, and to my surprise and delight, I've found that still life subjects have personality and big skies are pretty heady characters themselves. Even then, I'm looking for something in the human experience we all share, whether it's animal, vegetable, or mineral.“
Shepherd may study her subjects closely, but the paintings are fresh and spontaneous, built with assured marks and a careful control of the medium. Her images never feel overworked or fretted over, and that ease may indeed come from a foundation.
“Underneath all of these is drawing. I’ve had wonderful mentors but I don’t exactly follow in their footsteps. Two of my teachers, Philip Pearlstein and Mary Ann Currier, were exacting realists, but Lennart Anderson and Sidney Goodman were tonalists - one classical and one dramatic. The underlying thread connecting all of them, and me, is drawing as the foundation on which the painting is built. My best drawings are under paintings. And light. I always love light.”
Shepherd is a past recipient of the Al Smith Fellowship and is currently showing as a part of Five Exceptional Painters at Galerie Hertz. The exhibit runs through March 24.
Hometown: Paris, Kentucky
Education: BFA, Louisville School of Art/University of Louisville; Four-year certificate in painting, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; MFA, CUNY, Brooklyn College Center for Book Arts, NYC, non-degree
Gallery Representation: Galerie Hertz (Louisville)
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.