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Swimming Through Kate Vrijmoet’s Exhibit: Listening To What You Can’t See

Gayle Tice

Freelance Writer,

Gayle Tice

On the evening of May 8th Kate Vrijmoet (2014 Grant for Artist Projects Recipient), had an opening reception for her gallery exhibit Listening To What You Can’t See (thru June 10th, Sticks and Stones Gallery.) It was an absolute treat to meet Kate and view her large scale oil paintings in the two floored space.

With titles like: The rest is a faint echo (2010),  What you get is to be changed more and more by each glistening minute (2011),  A need so great and deep it can never be swallowed (2010),  Breathe in knowing we are all made of this (2015), and In Praise of Water (2014)—the swimming-focused work speaks for itself. 

Vibrant bodies stand against fields of dark blue and teal, with occasional splashes of forest green. Figures are represented with only their feet, lower legs, and the occasional hand in focus. The pieces draw us into an underwater world where all is distorted except for our own kicking and reaching.

The distortion of the water creates a natural, impressionistic effect, rendered in visible brush strokes.

The artist statement on the wall states: “In these paintings water represents the physical manifestation of the aural.” The artist feels that the paintings cause mirror neurons to fire in our brains, allowing us to hear what we know to be true about the experience of being underwater. 

I did not find myself hearing the paintings. Perhaps the electronic dance music playing throughout the cozy gallery space overpowered the water. Kate admits that the effect isn’t one-hundred-percent effective for all viewers yet; she is working on it. 
While speaking about the large scale of her paintings, one of which is eight by twelve feet in size, she said, “ need to be able to immerse yourself in the paintings as a viewer.”  Kate says she first heard the sound of water in her work when she enlarged her projections of the original photographs that her paintings would be based on. That was when she discovered that these images did not want to be small. 

A swimming pool would not fit in a drinking glass.

I am grateful that Kate has turned experiments with disposable waterproof cameras and a pool into the impressive works displayed in this show. The viewer really must take the time to linger on the stairs and soak in these works from as many angles and distances as they can.

The paintings powerfully render the experience of emerging from one world back into another, and perhaps of merging with something beyond ourselves, if only for a moment.