Mary-Austin Klein 'Into the Blue' at Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach

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Arrival - SWA@LAX, Oil on duralar, mounted on board, 6 x 8 inches

Artist Mary-Austin Klein paints landscapes throughout the Southwest--both natural and man-made--that hint at the latent history of geologic features or residual effects of past human actions. An artist who likes explore, wander and camp her way through remote places, Klein records the landscape and its features with striking fidelity.

John Seed Interviews Mary-Austin Klein

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Mary-Austin Klein

How did growing up in San Bernardino and Palos Verdes shape you and your vision of California? 

Both locations had/have an abundance of open space and natural beauty. One with a back drop of the San Bernardino Mountains with miles of orange groves in the foreground, while the other features the Pacific Ocean with miles of sandy beaches ringing the South Bay. I was an outdoors kid, a tomboy, and through osmosis, the surrounding landscape grounded me, giving me a deep sense of place, a connectedness to the earth. In difficult teenage years, as a typical self-involved young adult, I became aware that the coastal beauty of Palos Verdes Peninsula had the power to move my mind to an elevated place. When feeling distressed, it never failed to give me solace.

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Salton Sea Morning, Oil on duralar, 12 x 36 inches

Tell me about your studies at Otis? 

Original focus was to be architectural with a degree from their Environmental Design department. After the first year I followed my true desire to move into the Fine Arts. My paintings went from small scaled to huge. I discovered that I had a wealth of stamina, competitiveness and perfectionism and poured that into all of my projects be it sculpture, video arts or painting. Moving from Palos Verdes to Mcarthur Park to attend Otis/Parsons was a huge cultural shock. It was fantastic to be forced to find beauty in the urbanity of a decrepit inner-city district of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles River was a source of many projects and I spent much of the four years at Otis documenting the concrete channel and it's epic bridges in still photography, video, charcoal drawings and oil paint.

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Saline Valley, Palm Spring, Oil on duralar, mounted on board, 24 x 36 inches

Do you see your art as "realist" or do you deviate from what your eyes actually see? 

Yes, to a point. First landscape work was more idealistic, dreaming of the unspoiled California that William Wendt painted, leaving out imperfections of man's impact on the landscape. Now I am more of a realist. "Flaws" of wind turbines and developments are now often included in my compositions.

How do you choose locations and images? 

Locations are usually chosen via an aimless wandering. The randomness of discovery creates an energy that comes through in the painting. I love serendipity, the emotional resonance that comes from exploration and chance. Choosing an image is the hardest part of my process. The tendency to be over analytical can be overwhelming at times. Deciding which image has a dynamic force, which ones bring peacefulness, things that cannot be expressed by me with words, only in paint.

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California Aqueduct, Hesperia, Oil on duralar mounted on board, 13 x 13 inches

What methods and materials do you use? 

A 1996 4 x 4 Toyota Land Cruiser customized and outfitted for remote camping in the desert. Digital camera. Once in the studio, numerous printouts, then the drawing of the chosen image. Oil paint is applied on the seductive surface of Dur-a-Lar, a modern day, archival vellum that many miniaturist use. It is smooth yet has a tooth to hold the paint without any imperfections. Tiny brushes for detail, large watercolor wash brushes for the skies.

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Palm Springs Sky I, Oil on duralar, mounted on board, 8 x 8 inches

What attracts you to the desert?

Silence, vastness of space, huge skies, the sense of scale - how small we really are on earth. I love finding beauty in the overlooked and the more remote locations. The purity of the light is in the desert regions, the colors of the Mojave and the strong mountain forms with a geometry to their erosion never fail to inspire. Nor does the power felt in the timeline of geographical events that created this desert beauty.

Do you prefer to work in small scale? 

Mostly. Smaller works pull you into the scene, it's more intimate way of looking at art. The sense of controlling a vastness of space into a compressed frame is a much different experience compared to larger works.

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Interstate 10, San Gorgonio Pass, Oil and duralar, mounted on board, 6 x 8 inches

What are your interests outside of art? 

 Driving sporty cars, world travel, my new road bike, and reading a good mystery. Our English black lab is quite spoiled with walks, beach trip and joining us on our camping trips.

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Mary-Austin Klein: Into the Blue
June 1 - July 15, 2016
Sue Greenwood Fine Art
330 N. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, California 92651

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