More than 20 new oils-on-canvas by Kate Knapp will be on exhibit at the Jessie Edwards Studio on the second floor of the Post Office building from Friday, July 26, to August 7. The opening reception is on Saturday, July 27, from 5-7 pm.
Painting in the fall of 2018 and this past spring, Knapp has captured familiar views in new ways and, to her delight, has found places unknown to her even after a lifetime of painting on the island. Two works are views of her recent discovery in early June. Exploring a path off Coast Guard Road, Knapp came upon a beach she had not seen before. A sign said, “Bonnell Beach.” The result: “Bonnell Beach View” looks across a serene Salt Pond to the Victorian house on the left, bright yellow against a fresh green sward. Payne’s Dock is in the center, where just a few sailboats come and go. To the right, the familiar red roofs of the Narragansett Inn and its outbuildings catch our eye. “View Across Great Salt Pond” is painted from the path to Bonnell Beach. The play of light falls across the gnarled branches of a tree and the jagged contours of a stone wall dominate the foreground. The Salt Pond in the middle distance and through the branches of the tree, we glimpse the blue sea and sky beyond.
“I like the real world,” Knapp said recently, referring to the combination of natural settings and to man-made objects that she sees in harmony with nature. For example, in “Mohegan Bluffs Morning,” the early light brings out the precipitous angles and contours of the bluffs, which in turn are repeated in the twists and turns of the stairs descending to the beach 141 steps below. The slant of the fence in the left foreground also suggests that sense of being off-balance, while in the distance, the South East Light stands straight and tall, with its red brick solidity against a pale sky.
“View from the Bedroom” is similar in its use of simple objects to define a scene. For Knapp, the solidity of the chair, the radiator, and the bed in the foreground are essential anchors of daily life that allow us to connect with the vista of the town, the pond, and the ocean seen from two large windows. The morning light and the blue and purple shadows link the interior world to the larger one outside. “Flowers on the Porch,” one of two still-lifes of flowers, also shows the unity of the interior and exterior worlds. The vivid array of flowers in a simple glass jug is in the foreground, while beyond, in softer colors, the lawn and fields slope down to the sea with white clouds drifting above.
Several pieces emphasize the openness, power, and vastness of nature. “Westside View Clouds” is all sky — a swirl of blues, grey, and purples. “Sunset on West Side Cottage” is similar with its view of a big sky tinged with pink. In the center distance, a small solitary house sits at the edge of a field linking the earth to the to the expanse of sky. “Sea Chest at Sunset” is a view of the familiar white house that sits on the edge of Dorie’s Cove. It, too, suggests a solitary harmony with its place in nature. “East Side View Stormy Day” again shows a lone house at the edge of the sea. The surf rolls in and in the distance, the ferry makes its way past Clay Head into Old Harbor.
Knapp has said that her eye loves the landscape of Block Island, but she also loves the structures on the island, especially those that remind her of an older time. For example, “Block Island Cottage” has a simple elegance in its faded clapboard siding and various roof angles. It is the same cottage seen in “Andrews Porch View,” with its complex perspective. The angles of the white porch in the foreground frame a view of the red cottage to the left, with an orange bathing suit on the clothesline. Beyond is a pond and farther on is the ocean. We look through two windows at the gothic gables of a house by the sea. Again, outside and inside worlds come together.
“I feel joy when I pick up a brush to paint a light effect or a familiar view in a way I have never seen before,” Knapp commented. Other views that reflect that joy are of tranquil ponds, clotheslines snapping in the wind, flower-strewn paths to the water, and a sunset at Dorie’s Cove with warm yellow and pink tones spreading across the sky and the water.