Alexandra Klimas – Fine Animal Studies
by Lynn R. Miller
We were introduced to Alexandra Klimas’ exquisite animal portraits a few months back in communication with folks in England about George Soper’s print on the last cover of the Journal. John Davies, of the John Davies Gallery, suggested she and her art might warrant article mention.
Readers of this Journal know of our long standing belief that art and farming go hand in glove. In the case of Klimas she has joined heart, intellect and hand in glove. The show notes from her November 2019 exhibit, written by John Davies, included these illuminating remarks:
“…her love of farm animals started to develop at an early age, as well as the need to draw them. There has not only been a drive within her to create these studies because of the strong attraction of the subject, but Alexandra has also been driven by the concern for how such animals, inevitably destined for our consumption, are treated. This concern is not only for the quality of the creatures’ lives while on the farms, but it is also for the way they are transported as well as how their lives are ended. Consequently, Alexandra only visits farms that put the welfare of their animals first and farms that are also managed in the most ecological manner. Her compositions go well beyond being simply pictures – likenesses of her subjects – these paintings are incisively observed studies that invite the viewer to dwell on their individuality, their existence and their place in the scheme of things. They are portraits, and for the paintings to work at such a level they must be completed to the highest of standards – anatomically correct, composed with a combination of originality and vitality as well as being executed with sophistication…”
There are many working definitions of art, and doubtless there will be new ones in the future. The definition that encourages me to see the clear relationship between farming and, say painting, is the one which places looking and manifesting what is seen, felt and encouraged into imagery. Photo realism as a genre has a rich tradition stretching back to Hans Holbein the Younger and Johannes Vermeer, a tradition which has challenged individual artists to discover and instill the tricky visual elements which embue the images with a living vitality. The stasis that comes of the minutely driven capture of the smallest details frequently renders the images lifeless. Alexandra Klimas has discovered her access to the living image. Perhaps it stems from the attentiveness and empathy Davies references? For me, I suspect it goes beyond that to what she adds of herself. For example, when I look long and open into her work, I see a courage in the handling of the very subtlety of color mixes to give us a sense that we might actually be able to see the skin tones beneath the fur, feather and hair. This woman comes with presumptions to each assignment but it feels like she holds those in perfect check, twisting them to help her arrive at that magical capture of living essence that in turn captivates us.
But for the discussions of farming and painting, related and separate to the artistic process is the manifestation of a true and complete ‘seeing.’ We come away from these images a little shaken by the returning visage of these animals. Ms. Klimas offers to us the ‘sentient being’ in each pose. She honors the natural world with her work.
“Alexandra observes her ‘sitters’ at close hand over an extended period, transforming the animal’s curiosity in her to a bond of familiarity and confidence that enables her to focus on both the form and the detail of her subjects. All her animals have names and she has become very aware of their individual personalities. Working at this level takes huge perseverance, a level of commitment that rarely comes without a degree of sacrifice. Alexandra’s work comes first in her life. The results are outstanding and can only be considered amongst the finest of their genre.” — John Davies