Artist Christine Klinger explores the ‘Nature of Yellow Springs’
By Brennan Burks
Photo: Christine Klinger paints the natural beauty of her surroundings during Tecumseh Land Trust’s Paint-Out; photos: Christine Klinger
For artist Christine Klinger, place begets art, and there is no place like Yellow Springs. Just outside of town, in any direction, you will find the natural scenes so close to Klinger’s heart, so common to the Midwestern landscape. Vast fields of wildflowers, sunflowers, corn, wheat, and soybeans, soft rolling hills stitched together with simple fence lines and country roads, and trickling streams hidden within thick forests of oak, maple, and sycamore trees. This is the nature that nourishes heart and mind, and fuels her art. In some projects, these scenes are where her ideas began, eventually taking shape in another visual form and representation. But in others, like the current gallery show at the Yellow Springs Senior Center, “The Nature of Yellow Springs,” these scenes are the only subjects she needs.
Klinger entered the art world in 1980, first with a pen and camera instead of a paintbrush. With a psychology degree from Antioch College and a master’s degree in photojournalism from Ohio University, she began working for a number of local publications, including the Yellow Springs News, Dayton Daily News, and yours truly, known at the time as The Dayton Voice. She developed an early passion for local artists and their craft, particularly through the lens.
“Through photography, which I still do today, I really became engaged and fascinated with a variety of techniques and methods—from fine art to clay sculpture,” Klinger says. And so, she rolled up her sleeves and started creating.
Fast forward to the millennium—now with a number of sculpture and photography exhibits and awards to her name, as well as time spent teaching at local colleges and curating galleries in Ohio and California, Klinger is no longer the reviewer; she’s the fully blossomed artist. But Klinger felt she had more to learn, different media to explore and subjects to express.
“About 10 years ago, after creating and teaching sculpture and photography for about 15 years, I became interested in painting,” Klinger says. “And the place to begin was where all my work began and where the foundation of all my work remains to this day—in nature.”
The current show covers nearly every angle of that foundation: 27 pieces in what Klinger calls “an impressionist style,” ranging in scope from a road near her home and the eponymous spring in Glen Helen to historic tracts of land preserved by the Tecumseh Land Trust and a Midwestern sky after a storm. Some pieces, like the four-foot corn stalk, burst with life and embrace viewers with its sheer size and sharpness of color, while others ask viewers to pause and appreciate the subtle contrast of light between an amber sky above and the damp, fall foliage below. Klinger says we are at the crossroads of an unbelievable natural beauty, which gives her an abundance of creative opportunities:
“One of the things I love so much is that we are within four miles of three nature preserves—not many places offer that.”
Although this gallery exhibit is a collection of the scenes Klinger encounters on a daily basis, it is not only an appreciation of the visual beauty that has inspired her to present them.
“It’s a difficult time for nature and our relationship with it,” Klinger confesses, “and I feel that as my work has always been grounded in nature, I need to take the role—in some way—of a steward, to express the places that are important to me and try to protect them by sharing my work with others.”
This effort to protect can be seen in a connected series titled “Our Path” and “Their Path.” On the surface there is an emphasis on paths made in nature—those made by people and those made by animals. “Our Path” demonstrates this with two rough dirt lanes, a smooth country road, and tight rows of filled-out crops. “Their Path” depicts the subtle yet direct routes of animals. One in particular looks out from the snowy edge of a tree line to an expansive open field beyond, with an intimate pair of deer tracks in the foreground. Upon meditation, however, these quiet pieces are more than simple illustrations of how all creatures move over, around, and through the countryside. They remind us of how our lives are traced into the earth. And, at least in this interpretation, they challenge us to remain balanced with this place and with everything living here.
For Klinger this place, in particular, is worth protecting. It’s the foundation of her work and the place that has helped her become an artist.
“I’ve lived in different parts of the country, but I can’t stay away from Yellow Springs,” she says. Even in other places with a profound natural beauty and a diverse geological makeup that could serve as worthy inspirations for Klinger’s canvas, the creative spirit of this place in the heartland of America, compounded by the openness and curiosity of its people, has given her an invaluable opportunity: “I learned here that you can be yourself—totally and completely—and that gives you the freedom to express, to create.”
‘The Nature of Yellow Springs’ runs through Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Yellow Springs Senior Center, 227 Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs. The show is free and open to the public, with paintings available for purchase. The center is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. For more information on Christine Klinger and her work, please visit KlingerArt.com or find ‘Klinger Studios’ on Facebook.