“Paucity of Time,”  by Kathleen Florance, charcoal, graphite, cloth, thread, ink
“Paucity of Time,” by Kathleen Florance, charcoal, graphite, cloth, thread, ink
Kathleen Florance has been an artist in the midcoast area for many years. I met her my first summer in Maine 36 years ago, when I signed up to exhibit at the then Port Clyde Arts and Crafts Society. Gallery-sitting turned out to be a great opportunity to get to know other artists exhibiting, signing up for the two-person time slot. 

I can recall the bubbly, earnest lady who was doing watercolors — very expertly rendered floral studies and landscapes. She had trained as a nurse, and has worked at Pen Bay Hospital. I remember her convincing her family that she needed to have a studio away from home to make art on her terms, with no distractions. Over the years, I’ve admired her discipline; she was able to set up her schedule so that she could work in the studio first thing in the morning, and then go do the 3-to-11 shift at the hospital. 

Florance’s work has evolved over the years, with epiphanies sometimes that would spark changes in focus or style or media, such as going from the more painterly watercolors to drawing media, like oil pastels, that combine her drawing with direct color application. She began to experiment with ideas, and work reactively, spontaneously, and less from observation. Her interest and curiosity in the natural world, science and the environmental crisis (and people’s influence on it) are ongoing subjects of contemplation, affecting, directly or indirectly, her work. Her gestural mark making often is a point of departure into the abstract realms.

“Simply said — I love to draw. This is the process that gives me the opportunity to look closely, to study and to travel unconscious avenues,” she says.

Her resume of work is long and varied, from environmental installations and community projects (like getting recycling established at the hospital) to large mixed-media pieces that combine a variety of materials. She has been featured in writings by Carl Little in Art New England and Bob Keyes in the Portland Press Herald, among others.

 When she was diagnosed with Menier’s disease, she was forced to retire from nursing several years ago, and has had to deal with several other health issues since then. But sometimes adversity can point to new paths. And with the help of family, she is still able to keep an art studio in Rockland. 

Likewise, a change of medium can push an artist toward a different approach. When she took a class in printmaking a few years ago, she was frustrated by its process, but it introduced her to new materials. “If you throw enough stuff at the wall, something will stick,” she said.

Having to steer away from some of the more toxic chemicals in some art materials, she began working with the printmaking oil-based relief inks, and came up with a new process. Her iPad has become her sketch book, and she then incorporates studies into a final piece, using brayers and masking for the inks, and, of course, drawing. 

She is working on several series; one is “Between. . .” On her website, she says, it “is a continuing series where I prefer to focus on symbols, color, and their relationships to reflect my interest and concerns surrounding our 21st-century environment.” For example, an image of dice (the roll of the dice) can be made out in some works.

Bruce Brown, a well-respected name in Maine art and curator emeritus for the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, has curated an exhibition called  “Paperwork,” that will include Florance’s recent works along with those of three other artists: Karen Adrienne, Frank Mauceri, and Munira Naqui (being hung as we speak). It will open November 1 and be on view until January 11, 2020, with an opening reception on November 9 from 1 to 3 p.m., at Cove Street Arts in Portland.

Florance is represented by the Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland. She will be giving a presentation at the Midcoast PechaKucha night at the Camden Opera House, Friday, November 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. Doors open at 6:30. Florance’s website is kathleenflorancestudio.com.