BY TOM LAVIS
For more than 30 years, Kathleen Kase Burk of Ebensburg compiled an enviable body of realistic drawings.
However, in her newest exhibition titled “From There to Here,” which will be on display at the Bottle Works Ethnic Art Center, Burk demonstrates a transition that has taken her from realism to abstract work.
“I came to the realization that while realism came natural to me, I felt my work lacked a certain depth,” Burk said.
“I was drawing objects in certain designs using circles, squares and grids.”
The show begins with an opening reception from 2 to 4 p.m. July 7 at the arts center, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
She enjoyed abstract art, and while attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the mid- to late 1970s to earn a master’s of fine arts degree, all of her professors were intent on abstraction.
She began to delve into abstraction while creating a series of drawings that included panels of realism, partial abstraction and finally a complete emersion into the conceptual art form.
“When displayed all together, you can see how they all come together,” she said.
In recent years, Burk’s interest in grids and centralized geometric designs has resulted in a series of large abstract works, some of which are executed in colored pencil.
Burk will have as many as 24 pencil and colored-pencil drawings in the show, which will be on view through Aug. 10.
All of the pieces will be for sale, except for one that she borrowed from a collector.
Prices range from $400 to $800.
Rosemary Pawlowski, arts center executive director, said Burk has an extraordinary grasp of all the principles and techniques for creating fine art.
“Observing her amazing works of realism of the past 20 years, then refocusing on her current body of abstract work is testimony to the ‘journey’ she has taken with her art,” Pawlowski said.
Burk graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in English from IUP and received a master’s degree in art in 1980.
Even before pursuing an art degree, she knew she was not going to make a living from art.
“I may only produce four or five pieces a year and know that I couldn’t make a living that way,” Burk said.
Of all the people who took the art courses with her at IUP, the vast majority wanted to teach at the college level.
“Only one is teaching,” Burk said.
Burk fondly remembers the first drawing she ever sold, in the late 1970s.
“I was showing some pieces at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh and had created a grid of individual used, lumpy Salada tea bags,” she said.
“The little tag at the end of the string holding the tea bag has various quotes and I did them so people could read them.”
But when it comes to her art, selling has never been a priority for Burk.
“I have been on a journey of transition from realistic to abstract works and it has taken me only three decades,” Burk quipped.
She will share some of her techniques during a workshop titled “Structure and Surface” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 27.
Anyone interested in taking part in the workshop may register by calling the arts center at 536-5399.
What: “From There to Here,” by Kathleen Kase Burk.
Where: Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
When: July 7 to Aug. 10.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
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