Interview: Kaitlin Kraemer

Kaitlin Kraemer (b.1985) grew up in greater Boston, MA, USA. She earned her BA in Anthropology and Studio Fine Arts from Union College, and received a graduate certificate in Oil Painting from Tufts University. She also completed a summer semester at The Marchutz School of Fine Arts in Aix-en-Provence, France. Prior to relocating to France in 2018, to focus on her art career, Kaitlin worked in fundraising and development at Harvard University, and in London at The Courtauld Institute of Art and University of the Arts London. She also has experience working for a leading contemporary art gallery in New England.

Kaitlin’s artwork has evolved into an abstract exploration of nature vs. nurture, exploring the impact one’s surroundings has on one’s emotional state and physical well-being. Using vivid colors and chaotic brushstrokes, her paintings and copper work render diverse and contradicting elements that exist in our environment, as well as in ourselves: creation and destruction; tranquility and turmoil; strength and fragility; devotion and neglect – revealing our many beautiful complexities, and challenging viewers to quite literally ‘think outside the box’. Kaitlin is currently based in Nice, France, exhibiting her work locally and internationally.

Could you tell us about your background and how you started your journey in the art world?

“I have been painting regularly for nearly two decades, although I didn’t become a full-time artist until a few years ago. Initially I worked in fundraising and development in higher education. I wouldn’t change anything about my years behind a desk; I learned so much, was surrounded by interesting and inspiring coworkers, and gained invaluable experience. I also learned what it was that I didn’t want to do with my life – and reaffirmed my passion for, and need to, create.

Despite having a reliable job and seemingly ‘perfect’ life, I was deeply unhappy. I felt stuck, unfulfilled, and unmotivated. It was a very dark time for me, but also, one that became a catalyst for necessary changes. I’m a big believer in the ‘actions speak louder than words’ philosophy, so, in 2016, I acted. Within six months I changed everything in my life: I gave notice at work, I filed for divorce, I left London where I had been living for 4 years, moved back into my parents’ house in the US, and enrolled on a year-long rigorous graduate arts program.

In the face of all the fear and uncertainty, for the first time ever, I felt like I was doing the right thing, and that I was absolutely going to be okay. It can be easy to forget that we dictate our day to day life; our choices reflect our actions, and those actions form each minute of our lives. I look back at that time now and it both shocks and thrills me – I kind of can’t believe I had the courage to do it and am incredibly grateful that I was strong enough to follow my (he)art.”

“It can feel mind-numbingly scary to take a chance and to change habits, particularly those that once brought us a certain level of comfort and societal acceptance. But it is all too easy to forget that we, and only we, curate the reality in which we live.”

What inspires you as an artist?

“This is always a tricky question to answer. Inspiration for me is two-fold; it comes from within, and without. From the outside world (the environment in which we live, nature, cities, our home, other people, places, things), as well as our internal world (the mind, the heart, the soul). I am inspired by nature as well as by the human condition and experience. Why, what, when, and how we do what we do – why, what, when, and how we see what we see – and I try to articulate all of those experiences visually. The simple complexities of the everyday: within, and without.”

What is your creative process like?

“A complete dumpster fire. No, kidding. Honestly, it’s a bit of a rumble and a tumble and a stumble. It’s constantly changing, and there isn’t necessarily a set schedule that I follow. I observe, sometimes research, often sketch, and always make myself paint something. I think staring at a blank canvas can be unnerving, so I like to dive in and just mess it up right from the beginning. That way, there’s nowhere to go but up. Worst case scenario, you begin again. Or you turn it around and forget about it for a while and revisit it later. Ignorance with art can sometimes be bliss. Oh, and wine often helps.”

How would you describe your work?

“Abstract expressionism, rooted in impressionism. I’m quite a prolific painter and my style has evolved considerably since I first began painting. I’ve worked very hard to achieve a truly authentic style, one which represents my emotions and inner truth as honestly as possible. I’m obsessed with color, light and harmony. And, blue! I love the color blue. Can you tell?”

“We all have many layers, some colorful and some very ugly. Each and every single one of those layers is what makes us individual: the good with the bad, the happy times and the sad. It’s all a part of our journey, our story, and I like to tell mine through my art. A tangible, technicolor tale of all that makes and breaks us.”
Which artists influence you most?

“Too many to list, but to name a few (in no particular order): Turner, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gaugin, Renoir, Frankenthaler, Mitchell, the de Koonings, Motherwell, Twombly, Krasner, Perle Fine, Mary Abbott, Grace Hartigan, Adrian Ghenie, etc…”

What is an artist’s role in society and how do you see that evolving?

“To offer a fresh, authentic point of view. A visual dialogue that enables a personal story to be regarded and interpreted by the public. Contemporary art is unique because it evokes emotion over rationality; the artist’s role is to nurture these emotions, and foster the opportunity for transcendence – to offer up wisdom through creativity. This evolves as we evolve. So long as we keep challenging others and ourselves, we’re headed in the right direction.”

Have you had any noteworthy exhibitions you’d like to share?

“I feel unbelievably lucky to have had the chance to exhibit during the pandemic. I had a solo exhibition at the Monaco Yacht Club in January this year which, despite Covid-related restrictions, was a success. I also have a number of pieces from my most recent collection on exhibit at Le Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel in Monaco, showing now through to 6 December. For more information on this and future exhibits, please visit my Instagram and/or website.”