Kate Wolfgang Savage is a traditional oil painter who aims to reflect the essential nature of her subjects. She works sensitively with light and color to convey the simplicity of form and innate transcendence of the aesthetic of natural vision. Kate explores this through the human figure, floral motifs, and natural landscape.
"I relish the capacity of painted images to communicate — from extending a simple moment to containing an idea beyond the rational mind."
The artist's journey
Kate was home-schooled in rural New Hampshire and spent most of her childhood making things and playing in the woods. Looking at her work this seems an obvious beginning. However, after graduating from Skidmore College, Kate did not pursue art making. She moved to New York and spent 10 years diligently working toward the "American Dream". And on paper she had it all - a thriving company, an extravagant home, and a all the flare of a life of status.
Walking past The Art Students League of New York one day, she was viscerally triggered by the depth she saw in a painting by Nelson Shanks and awakened to the reality that in listening to her fear over her heart, she'd created a picture perfect life that lacked authenticity and provided her with little real fulfillment. She wanted to let go of the external things that had come to define her, and search for the realness she knew was somewhere inside. Kate enrolled in Nelson's class at The League and shortly after moved to Philadelphia to study full time at his atelier, Studio Incamminati.
Four years later in 2010, Kate had completed her studies and acquired a teaching position at Studio Incamminati. Yet something still whispered, deeper. Despite the hesitation of an un-destined journey, Kate gathered her courage and dismantled her life once again. She kept only the painting and survival necessities that fit in a small van and set a course westward. Live simply, commune with nature and paint every day. This mantra lasted for 6 months and carried Kate across the country to what had been calling her all along: a life made from the inside out, chosen from her own experience. She set up a permanent studio and began creating in ernest.
Kate continues to live and paint in Venice, California. She use her heart as her compass, still living simply and measuring her success by the smile on her lips and the flow of her creative inspiration. Her landscapes epitomize the fragility, force, and wonder of nature, while her haunting portraits deconstruct what it means to be human. One thing, however, remains constant: the raw beauty that is Kate is infused into all of her creations.
- Emily Pereira, a friend of the artist
An interview with Kate
Who and where are you from?
My name is Kate Wolfgang Savage. I was raised in the countryside of southeastern New Hampshire and studied the foundations of drawing and painting in New York City and Philadelphia.
How did you become an artist?
I have loved to make as long as I can remember. I had a playful and creative childhood in which I explored many forms of art and craft. The complexity and capacity of oil painting to convey beauty and mystery compelled me to study it in-depth.
What is your driving force?
My experience of great works of art have been indeed sublime, even transcendent. My greatest ambition is to contribute such a gift to the world.
What kind of work you do and why?
I love to create with oils, graphite and charcoal. I find these mediums flexible and rich.
My last series, Blooming, is a meditation on the divine feminine. I painted women and repeating floral motifs to express a feeling of radiance from the inside out. Currently, I am working a new feminine series through a mythological / allegorical lens.
The dual nature of reality and the reconciliation of paradox is an ongoing area of study — understanding this energy as a driving force of life. I enjoy the dynamic tension of classical oil painting in a contemporary world; the opportunity to combine structured principles with unbounded imagination; to use a practice of such traditional depth as a means to walk forward in an age of innovation.
Integrated Complexity of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness
An Article by Michael Douglas Carlin
They say good things come in small packages. Kate weighs in at 100 pounds but don’t let her size deceive you. She is a Giant – a force – intellectually, politically, and spiritually. She puts her passion and intensity in everything she does and I find myself exhausted after nearly five hours of conversation. She challenges me and pushes my thoughts into uncomfortable areas where I must stretch my mind.
When I think of who has their fingers on the pulse of what is happening, Kate is now at the top of my list. We talk about life, art, music, movies, Venice, and each time the conversation takes a philosophical turn. Her opinions are never simply some sound byte she repeats. No… she really thinks and asks questions that make me think. The interaction is a tug of war toward a new understanding reflective of her art.
She talks about agony and ecstasy – as true artists take risks. "You can’t make art if you aren’t alive – if you are not engaged,” she says. Each sentence confirms that Kate is, indeed, alive, engaged, and most importantly present. Her view of the world leads her toward important themes that arouse emotion in us. She speaks in book and film titles unconscious of how fluid they flow off of her tongue. She tells me about wanting to create a work of art that pays homage to the novel, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” a work that inspires the endless possibilities in the limitless Universe.
The conversation turns toward her local community of Venice (known for art). "We need to preserve the social eco-system that created Venice, not kick out the homeless, knock down historical buildings and out-price the artists; otherwise it's going to die.” She is referring to the gentrification of Venice that has sent so many artists packing for cheaper digs as real estate prices and rents continue to soar. So far Kate continues to call Venice home. If the complexity of the problem is beyond her ability to control she offers a pragmatic solution. She talks about patrons of the arts that have for centuries made art possible. "It is the responsibility of the wealthy to ensure that art continues,” she says "Why not adopt an artist?”
She takes me into her world of art where she once sat weeping upon seeing "John the Baptist” by Rodin. She talks about being forced by the best artists to dig deeper in her own work to create meaningful pieces as she is "always working to get out of the next layer of closed minded thinking.” She defines art as emergent, where the truth, beauty, and goodness of science and mysticism converge. With no trust fund she must pour more than her own soul into her art – she strives to place all of humanity there. Once a piece is finished, invariably the right person comes along who connects with the energy of the art and cannot leave a drawing or painting behind. Some of them have made payments over time to own a Kate Wolfgang Savage work of art.
Art comes from pain – not that you have to be experiencing pain currently to create art, as Kate feels her life is beginning to experience true inner peace. That peace has been won at a heavy price as she reminisces on her life struggles. She constantly digs deep into that memory of angst to heal those wounds by creating in a style she calls "Integration and Complexity” – dimensions that coexist and crossover. Where the complexity begins and ends or how the integration is achieved are closely guarded secrets that give her art value well in excess of her current pricing. Not that Kate attempts to hide her technique from anybody who asks her… but she calls this conscious intention unconsciously. "Some of my portraits are more vulnerable than I had intended,” she says with a blush. Even she doesn’t understand all of the secrets at play in her art. "What is that thing that is in all of us? I try to incorporate it in every person I paint.” A tender moment of reflection as she tells me about sensing the passing of her father – that shift of energy and from her vulnerable words I come to understand her unconscious secret – she paints and draws as others do but for her the secret is that she also, in a vulnerable moment, releases her energy into her art – the same phenomenon that brought her to tears staring at a statue. I now understand why I wanted to understand her process, why I wanted to interview her but there is more. I decide to read about Rodin’s "John the Baptist” and I find what he (himself) said about the man he chose as a model. "As soon as I saw him, I was filled with admiration; this rough, hairy man expressed violence in his bearing… yet also the mystical character of his race. I immediately thought of a Saint John the Baptist, in other words, a man of nature, a visionary, a believer, a precursor who came to announce one greater than himself. The peasant undressed, climbed onto the revolving stand as if he had never posed before; he planted himself firmly on his feet, head up, torso straight, at the same time putting his weight on both legs, open like a compass. The movement was so right, so straightforward and so true that I cried: ‘But it’s a man walking!’ I immediately resolved to model what I had seen.” I come to understand that weeping is most likely a part of Kate’s secret process – of the energy created by her vulnerability that sometimes escapes into her art.
I think about her theme of the "Unbearable Lightness of Being,” where she will put all of the endless possibilities and limitless Universe into a single painting and I can’t help hoping that some of her vulnerable energy escapes onto that canvas. I can’t help thinking that every tear she sheds elevates humanity.