Artist Statement, Biography and Resume
My art is the way I explore ideas concerning relationships, stages of life and culture. It is a meditative practice of sorts that helps me stop and think about the issues of our time. As I create, I find that layers of meaning, both intentional and unintentional, appear in my artwork. This is the magical part of creation that I find endlessly fascinating.
I seem to have a distinct visual language. Maybe it is just how I see or how I have learned to communicate visually. In either case, I do choose to use symbolism and surrealism to transform my subject matter into archetypal images. These images help give my work a mythical quality making them timely as well as timeless.
While I use a variety of materials, the ideas are the driving force behind these visual statements not the materials. That is one reason why I use graphite, clay and wood in creating the originals. They are all very expressive without taking over. When working two-dimensionally, I begin with graphite because there's an intimacy about a hand-drawn image, which I love. Whatever I put down on the paper is what I get. It is a real joy in being able to capture the creative act so purely.
I use these drawings as the basis for my print work, which is currently digital and serigraphic. The nice thing about printmaking is I can add contrast, color and sometimes texture, depending on the type of printmaking method, while still retaining the essence of the drawings. I don't want my drawings to become paintings or to rely on 'happy accidents' to make them interesting. Thus I use technology in an intentional manner to enhance the original thought.
When working three-dimensionally, I begin in clay or wood, both materials that are very user-friendly. Clay lets me form organic shapes that are wonderful to touch while wood lets me construct simple shapes or more complex elements to compliment and finish the statements. I then cast and fabricate these elements into more permanent materials, such as bronze or stone. I do this because all my sculptures are envisioned as life-sized or large-scale work to become part of the landscape or if smaller to create a landscape indoors. I also often incorporate water as an essential material to complete the visual statement adding movement and life.
Today I find inspiration wherever I happen to be. Whether it is here in the States, or when I lived in China, or traveling in other countries: I find if I look, ideas for new work are all around me. It maybe a thoughtfully crafted room in Japan or a mud-covered sacred cow in Thailand or a delightful woodland creature in the States that sparks a new way of thinking about something. One of my favorite art professors once told me: "Everyone is influenced by everything they see, read or hear, so choose your influences wisely.“ Thanks, Dr. Orman. While some things may influence us more, basically I think he was right.
Symbolic & Surreal | Kathleen Zimmerman
Kathleen Zimmerman's love affair with form, along with her natural tendency to use symbolism and surrealism in her work has come together to create her distinctive, visual language. Zimmerman uses this language to communicate ideas concerning interpersonal relationships, environmental concerns and cultural differences. Elements of the natural world, especially animals, are the subject matter she uses to express these ideas.
When asked what inspires her work, Kathleen Zimmerman says:
"Life. Creating artwork is a kind of meditative practice that helps me slow down and think about the issues of our time. The act of creating helps me make some sense of the world I find myself in."
The world Kathleen Zimmerman first found herself in was a beautiful one. She was born in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is nestled along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Her father was a carpenter, with a love for the outdoors. Her mother was an educator, with a love for the arts.
At the early age of three, Zimmerman along with her family began spending their free time either exploring the mountains of Colorado in their 1947 Willy's jeep or in a horse pasture with their beloved Welsh pony, Mystic Prince. These experiences instilled in Zimmerman a love for the natural world and a strong bond with animals. Zimmerman’s first schoolyard friend, Mary Little Bear, was a Native American who shared these strong ties to nature. Their friendship exposed Zimmerman to native culture, which had a big influence on her and can be seen in her artwork.
When asked about the early stages of being an artist, Zimmerman says that as far back as she can remember she wanted to make things and she saw the world in a different way. Abstract forms seemed to be expressed everywhere from the textured walls of her bedroom, to the spots on her dabbled, grey pony.
This way of seeing was noticed throughout school where Zimmerman excelled in all of her art classes. One exception may have been in kindergarten. The only time she ever got in trouble was for flipping over her finger painting so she could do another one on the backside of the paper. She remembers,
"My teacher wasn't really mad, being a very nice person, but just told me to ask for another piece of paper next time as we watched the paint drip onto the floor. When my teacher told my mom about it later, she laughed and remarked that Kathleen is going to use a lot of art supplies. Now I laugh and think, she was right."
When asked if there was someone or something that made her want to be an artist, she replied,
"I am often asked if there was a person or event that made me want to be an artist but I think it was just a part of who I was. I never really thought that I was pursuing Art as a profession until my Mother asked me what I wanted to take in college? I wasn't so sure I wanted to go to college but told her the only thing I was interested in was Art. This was not surprising but not very practical in my parent's minds. They worried about the trials of living an artist's life but they sent me on my way anyway."
There were no artists in Zimmerman's family tree but her grandfather and father were both very good woodworkers. Her father's mother was a fine seamstress, quilter, and did needlecrafts of all kinds. Zimmerman's grandmother and mother were teachers who played the piano and enjoyed the performing arts. Her mother's father became a doctor but was from the Misner family who ran the famous performing arts school. So there was a respect for craftsmanship and the performing arts, but no artists per se.
Zimmerman did go to college right out of high school choosing a mountain school that offered art as a major, Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. She attended this college for one year but then decided to transfer to a bigger university, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado because it was closer to home. While she received high grades in all her art classes at both schools, she withdrew before she graduated due to her Mom's health. This is when she says she began a more practical line of art study.
Zimmerman started working for the bronze-casting foundry, Art Castings of Colorado in Loveland, Colorado. There she learned all aspects of the ‘lost wax method of casting’ such as mold making, wax pouring, welding, chasing, etc. While she was receiving this hands-on education, she began creating her own cast bronze sculptures. This lead to the creation of a life-sized piece titled Melody, which was purchased by the Loveland High Plains Arts Council. It can be seen in the renowned Benson Park Sculpture Garden as part of their permanent collection.
But life takes twists and turns, and just as Zimmerman had started on a career as a sculptor, her husband's career moved them across the country to Connecticut. Just previous to this decision to move, Zimmerman's mother had died and Kathleen felt she needed some time and distance to deal with this loss. While this move helped with the grieving process, it did make casting bronze sculpture too costly for a young artist with a young family. So she took some time to spend with her sons before pursuing her other passion, which was drawing. Never one to do anything halfway, she applied to the Hartford Art School and was awarded full tuition on artistic merit scholarships and academic grants.
At the University of Hartford’s Art School, she proceeded to earn her BFA, concentrating in both sculpture and printmaking. This gave her the time to continue to develop the visual language she had begun in her three-dimensional work and expand it into two-dimensional work.
After Zimmerman graduated, she wanted the time to continue to develop her work without the pressures of the market. So she applied to the highly competitive intensive summer program called Alternative Route to Certification, which was run by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Education. She was accepted and completed this program. The Irving Robbins Middle School in Farmington, Connecticut promptly hired her.
After a couple of years of teaching, Zimmerman was offered the opportunity to travel around the country making molds of monumental sculpture for other artists by Lands End Sculpture Center. This position allowed her to both see what other sculptors were doing and gave her time in between jobs to work on her art. So she took advantage of this opportunity.
Then another opportunity came about. She was offered the chance to do an informal residency in China. Zimmerman realized this was a once in a lifetime chance, so she took a leap of faith and moved to Beijing with her husband. Her boys were in college and the military by then, so she figured it was a good time to go. In China, she explored this very different culture, studied the language, met an international group of artists and created a body of graphite drawings. This is where she began creating digital prints and to develop ideas for larger prints. During this period she also did quite a bit of traveling to places such as Japan, Mongolia, Tibet, Thailand and New Zealand, to name a few of her favorites. It was an invaluable experience for her, both as a person and as an artist. But after five years, it was time to move back to the states to be near her sons.
So in 2012, Zimmerman returned to Connecticut, and began creating hand pulled prints from these graphite drawings. A professor from Hartford Art School suggested she try intaglio printmaking at Dog’s Eye Print Studio in Massachusetts. She took his advice but soon found she was not satisfied with the look she was getting. They were fine, but they just did not fit with her vision.
This made her begin researching alternative printmaking methods, hoping to find one that produced the contemporary look and feel that she wanted. After doing this research, she came upon serigraphy. Serigraphy, also known as silk screening, screen printing or serigraph printing, is a stencil-based printing process in which ink is forced through a fine screen onto the paper beneath. Screens were originally made of silk, but they are now made of finely woven polyester or nylon. The concept of fine art printing has been popular since the 18th century, enabling artists to share their work with a broader range of admirers at a more accessible price. Since then, printmaking has evolved into another medium artists use to create artwork not just as a way to work in multiples. Silkscreen printing, also known as serigraph printing, is a medium that is increasingly valued for its versatility. It challenges the lithographic process in terms of the textural rendering of an image.
As luck would have it, Zea Mays Printmaking, also in Massachusetts, was offering a month long workshop in this method. So Zimmerman immediately signed up.
This is how she expressed her take on this method:
"I was immediately taken by this method’s ability to retain areas of pure white paper, capture the tonality of my drawings and make it possible to place blocks of vibrant colors that ran right up and kissed the rendered image!"
Serigraphy was indeed the perfect match for Zimmerman's sensibility. It captured the essence of the drawings but also took them to another level. Now producing high quality works of art, she felt she was finally ready to pursue a career as a professional artist. To ensure that her collectors would only receive the best possible prints, she began working with the master printers at Modern Multiples print studio in Los Angeles, California. This relationship has been very productive and she plans to continue working with them into the future.
Happy with the direction her two-dimensional work was going, Zimmerman found she missed the feel of clay underneath her fingernails and plaster in her hair, she laughingly says:
"Seriously, it was more that... I had some ideas that I felt could best be expressed three-dimensionally. Thus, I decided to work on these ideas first in a proposal called Bear Hug and then by creating new work in series’ titled; Mountains, Moon Rabbits and Counting Sheep. Mountain fuses together the figure and mountain forms, in order to communicate that humans are not separate from nature but a part of nature. The Moon Rabbits plays off the mythical ideas surrounding these animals and Counting Sheep deals with the interpersonal dynamics of groups. "
This return to the three-dimensional world of sculpture does not mean Zimmerman will cease to create new drawings and serigraphs. She will continue with two-dimensional work with just as much dedication, if not more. She says each media helps her see life in a different way and fuels the creative process. They feed off of each other, connecting these very different medias both visually and emotionally. So all this really means is that her two passions sculpture and drawing have come together as she enters into her professional stage as an artist.
When asked about the how she developed her vision she says:
"I am not sure how my vision developed but I think largely it is my love of form that directs how I work two dimensionally and three-dimensionally. I seem to have an inherent way of seeing. The abstract shapes seem to jump out at me if I take the time to really look at things."
When asked about how she goes about working with different media she says:
"When working two-dimensionally, I always begin with a graphite drawing because there's an intimacy about a hand-drawn image, which I love. Whatever I put down on the paper is what I get. It is a real joy in being able to capture the creative act so purely. I use these drawings as the basis for my print work, which is currently digital and serigraphic although I also love lithography and hope to do some more of that in the future. The nice thing about printmaking is I can add contrast, color and sometimes texture, depending on the type of printmaking method, while still retaining the essence of the drawings."
"When working three-dimensionally, I begin in clay or wood, both materials that are very user-friendly. Clay lets me form organic shapes that are wonderful to touch while wood lets me construct simple shapes or more complex elements to compliment and finish the statements. I then cast the clay elements into the more permanent material of bronze. I do this because all my sculptures are envisioned as life-sized or large-scale work to become part of the landscape or if smaller to create a landscape indoors that can be lived with without worrying about them being broken."
The historically important artists Zimmerman most admires are; Kathe Kollwitz, a German Expressionistic printmaker, Remedios Varo, a Mexican Surrealistic painter, Georgia O'Keeffe, an American Modern painter, Paul Gauguin, a French Post Impressionist painter and Brancusi, a Romanian Minimalist sculptor. All of these very different artists have inspired her to create her own visual language, which is accessible to others, while remaining intimately personal.
When asked about contemporary influences she says there are lots of artists she admires but her family has been her major influence,
"I do think my heritage has had a major influence on my artwork. While it is not ethnic, due to the wide variety of ancestors from German, Dutch, Scottish, French, Native American, etc. it is based more on the way of looking at life. My father's family were farmers, carpenters and quilt makers, so they had a respect for the land and fine craftsmanship. My mother's family was educated and involved in the performing arts, so they had a respect for intellectual pursuits and the arts. This background helped me to respect the natural world, fine craftsmanship and Art. "
Zimmerman doesn't join too many groups. She says they take too much time and commitment and she would rather be in the studio working. This being said, she is an elected member of the National Association of Women Artists in NYC, Connecticut Academy of Fine Art and Connecticut Women Artists.
Some of the awards Zimmerman has received are a public commission from Loveland High Plains Arts Council, Artistic Merit Scholarships from Hartford Art School, Academic Grants from Hartford Art School, Award for Sculpture from New Britain Museum of American Art, Award for Works on Paper from National Association of Women Artists, Award for Works on Paper from Guilford Art Center, Award for Works on Paper from the Connecticut Women Artists, Award for Works on Paper from Mystic Museum of Art and was awarded a State of Connecticut's Regional Art Grant in 2017.
Zimmerman's most notable Solo exhibitions have been at the University of Connecticut's Alexey von Schlippe Gallery, Kehler Liddel Gallery, Nash Zimmer Transportation Center, which was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, State of Connecticut's Office of the Arts & Windham Arts, Ethel Walker's Bell Galleries and University of Connecticut's Norman Stevens Gallery.
Recently, Zimmerman was one of thirty-five artists chosen from across the country for a National Juried Exhibition titled Taos Art Insurgency: The New Protagonist held in Taos, New Mexico. She was also one of three artists chosen from across the country to be a featured artist for Unity Magazine.
What do others artists, curators and patrons say about Zimmerman and her work?
Julia Pavonne, artist and curator for the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery said:
“Kathleen's intricate, delicately-layered graphite drawings each appear to come together to form the complex entity. As with life, each lovely drawing is made up of so many ethereal textures, shades and shapes that you want to look at more deeply to experience the emotions visually laid out before you.“
Barbara Scavotto-Early, artist, retired art teacher and patron said:
“Kathleen is one of the most productive and innovative artists who I have the pleasure of knowing. Her style is easy to recognize both of her drawings and her sculptures. Her collection of drawings, which were inspired by her stay in China, is both imaginative and masterful. The fluidity of her lines and the softness of her shading, compose a powerful and exquisite delicacy that captivates the viewer. The same holds true for her sculptures with surfaces that flow like landscapes or waterways. I would recommend Kathleen for her professionalism, her consistent and prolific work habits, her attention to form and content using symbolism, detail, composition and originality. I have admired her work since we met years ago - fellow sculptors and friends. Her manner of living and creating Art are abundant with sensitivity and thoughtful perceptions. She translates her life into volumes of expressive works, both visual and literary and her character is as amiable as her Art."
When Zimmerman is not working she enjoys walks in the woods with her dog Izzy, kayaking adventures locally and in other countries with her husband Michael, and seasonal trips along with regular luncheons with her two sons Dillon and Jacob.
When asked about the experiences outside of art work Zimmerman says:
"Being a wife and a mother has given me a grounded perspective on life as well as continuous supply of inspiration. For me, I needed to live a full life to have something I felt was worth sharing and to keep me focused on what was important."
"I have done a number of art related jobs while developing my skills as an artist such as mold making for Art Castings of Colorado and Lands End Sculpture Center, woodshop supervising for the University of Hartford, metalworking and shop supervising for Rossi Metal Sculpture, art teaching for Irving Robbins Middle School as well as creating and producing Artist Live for the National Endowment for the Arts, Connecticut's Office of the Arts and Windham Arts. All these jobs sharpened my skills, fostered relationships and made me a better artist and person."
When asked about her mission as an artist she says,
"I am drawn to portraying the natural world and especially animals as equals to be considered and protected. This is due both the exposure to Native American culture from an early age and to my family's empathy for all life forms. They treated others as they wanted to be treated. This concept did not only pertain to humans, but to all living creatures. “
University of Hartford Art School majoring in sculpture & printmaking
*Artistic merit scholarships and academic grants
Zimmerman Fine Art Studio
Artist and owner
National Endowment for the Arts, Connecticut Office of the Arts and Windham Arts
Grantee, program director and artist
Lands End Sculpture Center
Monumental mold maker
Irving Robbins Middle School
Art teacher for 7th and 8th grade students
Rossi Metal Sculpture
Metal shop supervisor, metalworker and plasma cutter
University of Hartford Art School
Woodshop supervisor and art student
Art Castings of Colorado
Selected Exhibitions (chronological order)
University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
Symbolic & Surreal Exhibition, Norman Stevens Gallery, Solo
Ethel Walker School (Simsbury,CT)
Symbolic & Surreal Exhibition, Bell Galleries, Solo
South Gallery (NYC)
NAWA’s 129th Annual Members’ Exhibition, Group
University of Connecticut (Groton, CT)
Late Summer Exhibition, Alexey von Schlippe Gallery, Solo
University of Connecticut (Farmington, CT)
National Invitational Sculpture Show, Group
Greg Moon Art, Wilder Nightingale Fine Art & David Anthony Fine Art (Taos, NM)
Taos Art Insurgency: The New Protagonists, Group
*One of thirty-two artists chosen from across the nation (serigraphs)
Nash-Zimmer Transportation Center (Storrs, CT)
Artists Live, Solo
*Sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts, CT Office of the Arts & WindhamArts (prints)
Kehler Liddell Gallery (New Haven, CT)
New Members Exhibition, Group
*Membership on merit (drawings, prints & sculpture)
National Association of Women Artists (NYC)
Open Small Works, Group
Clothing Optional, Group
New Members, Group
*Membership on merit for ‘Works on Paper’ (drawings & prints)
Mystic Museum of Art (Mystic, CT)
Members & Elected Artists (numerous), Group
The 59th Regional, Group
Black & White, Group
*Award for ‘Works on Paper’ (China)
Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts’ (Mystic, CT)
Annual (numerous), Group
*Membership on merit (drawings, prints & sculpture)
University of Connecticut's Jorgenson Gallery (Storrs, CT)
Connecticut Women Artists Annual Juried, Group
*Award for ‘Works on Paper’ (Universe Series - Milky Way)
Slater Museum of Art (Norwich, CT)
Connecticut Women Artists Annual Juried, Group
*Membership on merit (drawings, prints & sculpture)
New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain, CT)
*’Award for Sculpture’ (Animal Farm)
Benson Park Sculpture Garden (Loveland, CO)
Sculpture in the Park (numerous), Group
*Public commission for life-sized sculpture (Music Series - Melody)
National Association of Women Artists, Inc., Juried *elected member
Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, Juried *elected member
Connecticut Women Artists, Juried *elected member
Modern Multiples Print Studio in Los Angeles, California
Benson Park Sculpture Garden in Loveland, Colorado
Numerous private collections (internationally)
“It gives me great pleasure to recommend Kathleen Zimmerman to you. I worked both formally and informally with Kathleen throughout her years of study at the Hartford Art School. Kathleen quite simply is a wonderful artist and person. She started classes at Hartford Art School with a lot of talent and through much hard work and dedication rapidly became one of the school’s pace setters as well as one of the school’s prized students. Kathleen always works at her peak performance and so became an inspiration to all of those around her. She is extremely bright and assimilates her experiences directly into her work. Kathleen is a solid draughts person who is constantly working to improve her drawing skills. Her work, though sometimes representational, works on the abstract level as well. She has a knack for developing the subtleties that are present in her subject and presenting them powerfully to her viewer. I feel her work is sensitive and thoroughly engaging. Kathleen Zimmerman is a delightful person. Her personality is cheerful and upbeat and her dedication is relentless. I enthusiastically recommend Kathleen to you.”
Fred Wessel - artist and retired tenured professor who was head of the printmaking department at University of Hartford Art School
"Kathleen's intricate, delicately layered graphite drawings each appear to come together to form the complex entity. As with life, each lovely drawing is made up of so many ethereal textures, shades and shapes that you want to look at more deeply to experience the emotions visually laid out before you."
Julia Provone - artist and curator who founded and ran the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery on University of Connecticut’s Avery Campus
“Kathleen is one of the most productive and innovative artists who I have the pleasure of knowing. Her style is easy to recognize both of her drawings and her sculptures. Her collection of drawings, which were inspired by her stay in China, are both imaginative and masterful. The fluidity of her lines and the softness of her shading, compose a powerful and exquisite delicacy that captivate the viewer. The same holds true for her sculptures with surfaces that flow like landscapes or waterways. I would recommend Kathleen for her professionalism, her consistent and prolific work habits, her attention to form and content using symbolism, detail, composition and originality. I have admired her work since we met years ago - fellow sculptors and friends. Her manner of living and creating Art are abundant with sensitivity and thoughtful perceptions. She translates her life into volumes of expressive works, both visual and literary and her character is as amiable as her Art."
Barbara Scavotto-Early - artist, art teacher who became a patron and a friend
"Benson Sculpture Garden...this public treasure annually draws tens of thousands of visitors from around the globe. It has been recognized as one of the 200 most important modern and contemporary art sites around the world and as one of the 20 must-see contemporary art sites across the USA. Kathleen's sculpture, Melody, was selected for permanent placement in Benson Sculpture Garden in 1992. It is a beautiful piece... And, after more than 20 years, it continues to be a favorite piece in our collection."
Polly Juneau - Chairman on the Board of Directors of the Loveland High Plains Arts Council who purchased Melody
Favorite Artist Quotes
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo da Vinci
"Painting (or any artform) is just another way of keeping a diary."
"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage."
"Look at life with the eyes of a child."