Fine Artist Kate Timm
by Nancy E. McCarthy
Landscape and still life are distinct genres and rarely are these two subjects combined in one painting. Fine artist Kate Timm’s work is among those rare exceptions. Her vibrant paintings depict charming tabletop arrangements of colorful objects as foreground with a window view of a natural landscape as background.
The relationship between the two is seamless. The realistic images beckon us to the table to pluck a piece of candy from a pretty dish or sniff a fragrant floral arrangement while taking in the breathtaking outdoor scenery beyond.
Timm’s works are very large. “It allows the viewer to be a part of the space,” she explains. An average sized oil painting is 50 x 50 inches.
The allure of landscape
The outdoors plays an important role in her artwork and her life. Timm, one of six siblings, enjoyed exploring the woods and fields with her brothers near their childhood home in Skaneateles. From an early age she developed a love of the local landscape, of birding and gardening. “To this day, I garden and can tomatoes, pickles, hot peppers, and assorted fruits, jams and jellies,” she says. These homemade canned goods were the subjects of her first still life paintings.
Today the landscape represented in her paintings is exclusively the 124 acre property surrounding the farm in Sterling where she lives with her husband Al Bremmer. From the large 1,600 square foot studio she shares with Bremmer, an abstract painter, she captures all seasons: the stark winter whites and dull browns, the burst of new growth in spring, summer’s rich pops of color and a riot of deep autumn hues.
Timm has amassed a variety of items for her still life compositions such as bird nests and cages, fish aquariums and fabrics. She sources natural materials from her own vegetable and flower gardens. Brightly colored candies, like jellybeans and gumdrops, add a touch of whimsy to some arrangements. Timm collects glassware, too, with a fondness for vintage Murano, Depression and Anchor Hocking. The majority of objects come from antique shops and yard sales or are donated by family and friends. “Even though vintage and antique materials are used, the paintings are meant to be contemporary and current in nature,” says Timm. Her collections are curated and stored on shelving her husband built.
Capturing the natural light flowing in, around and through the selected objects is the unifying force of depicting indoors and outdoors in a single painting. Every element of the painting, including Timm’s use of light, is equally important.
Psychology and art
“There’s a motivation, a need to produce art,” says Timm who delights in the process and the result. “If I am out of the studio for too long, I get a little crazy.” She paints daily since her 2014 retirement from her 27 years as an art media specialist at SUNY Oswego.
SUNY Oswego was impactful in her personal and professional life. It was where Timm attained two Bachelor’s of Art degrees – one in psychology and another in art, followed by a Master’s of Art in 1976. Though her initial career path was clinical psychology, after taking some art electives her trajectory changed dramatically. During college, Timm was a realist painter with landscape and street scenes as preferred subjects. She was influenced by the turn of the 20th century Ashcan School painters (a group of artists in New York City inspired by painter Robert Henri and known for gritty urban scenes, a dark palette and gestural brushwork).
As an undergrad, she learned about the unusual artwork of contemporary artists Janet Fish and Jane Freilicher who combined still life with landscape. Though it may have planted a seed, Timm didn’t consider intertwining these genres for her own work until years later.
Timm met her future husband at SUNY Oswego while in graduate school. Bremmer, now a retired Professor Emeritus, was an art professor at the college for 35 years. While both were employed there, the couple made many friends; some of whom became collectors of their work. Their friends Sara Varhus and her husband David Hill, retired English professors, own four Timm paintings.
Their favorite is Haying Time. “We love that the painting prompts questions,” says Varhus. In the landscape, freshly cut hay lies in rows and the trees are lush green. “The still life seems to echo the theme of a bountiful harvest, but in the midst is an animal skull, and if you look closely, there are little spots of decay on some of the vegetables,” Varhus explains. “And all of this is arranged on a fabric printed with the words to ‘The Yellow Submarine.’”
Dr. Stephen Weber, a self-described art addict and retired president of SUNY Oswego, purchased Timm’s Pescevino and Tamaracks. The 42” x 88” oil painting was part of a solo exhibit at the college. “It is a beautiful, well-executed painting that perfectly captures the spirit and atmosphere of that lovely place: the gray autumn sky, the gently rolling hills, the remains of recently-harvested corn,” says Weber. “Kate’s talent for color, perspective, and composition are extraordinary and quite distinctive.”
In 1980, Timm and Bremmer moved to their farm in Sterling, an area they loved. Relaxing into a more rural lifestyle, she gradually began painting the views she enjoyed from home instead of cityscapes. With the addition of vibrant still life materials, her intent was to capture the beauty and unique quality of ordinary objects, set with a background of the Upstate New York landscape. The format has worked beautifully for the artist for nearly four decades.
Timm has exhibited widely in solo and group shows in distinguished venues such as the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse and Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, garnering many awards along the way. She is represented exclusively by Oxford Gallery in Rochester and will be part of their upcoming “In a Different Light” exhibition running from October 16 through November 26.
No doubt Timm’s mastery of light in her artwork will shine brightly.
The Artist’s Process
A painting begins with the selection and placement of still life objects to complement the landscape view. For instance, an autumn landscape might include seasonal flowers and vegetables. Items are adjusted until a composition evolves. Similar colors unify, like red gladioli and red apples, while pairing an ornate green candy dish with simple red glassware provides contrast. Contemporary relatable items, like comic books and birds, provide some whimsy.
Timm photographs the arrangement numerous times to finally select a composition that will be successful as a painting. The image is then projected onto the canvas and the outline of the objects is drawn. It’s a time-saving device to eliminate the freehand drawing process. Painting the most perishable items first, she refers to the actual still life as well as photographs for visual input.
Professional oil paints, odorless thinner and stand oil plus a variety of sable and synthetic brushes are used. Timm builds, stretches and triple-primes her canvases. An average-size oil painting of 50” x 50” requires 3-4 months to complete. She also paints with watercolor on paper. The images are generally as complex but the paintings are smaller and require 1-2 months for completion.
Visit oxfordgallery.com to view or purchase Kate Timm’s paintings.