Artist's statement: "I follow my heart and paint what I feel."
It’s the life of artist Cathee ‘Cat’ Clausen. It’s her artwork’s unspoken word.
Imagining and creating with a thought, a brush, paint and a canvas, each work begins with the simplest element – a memory or a feeling - and builds from there.
From her childhood recollections of camping in Sedona or the Grand Canyon, of sleeping under an Indian blanket each night, of building sandcastles by the ocean, or forming mud animals to bake in the hot desert sun, to the current sleepy central Illinois town she calls home, Clausen’s life and artwork have danced around each other for years.
Born in Brawley, Calif., Clausen spent the majority of her childhood with her parents and siblings in Arizona, where her mom taught elementary school to Native American Apaches and her father worked as a arid plant geneticist.
She spent her days as a budding artist, making her own jewelry and pottery and clothing, taking camping and nature trips throughout the desert and soaking in a southwestern, Bohemian life.
She could imagine herself as an artist--free to express her life as a painter and illustrator.
“I like a somewhat solitary life and I could envision the time it would take to make a bracelet or to paint a picture or make a drawing, and I had the patience to sit and do things like that,” she said.
Little baby moccasins. A tiny woven basket. Graphite drawings of wild horses. The colors of a fiery desert sunset. Dancing angels. Fascinating portraits. These images painted her youth.
It would be years before those memories would become front and center in both her mind and work.
In 1982, Clausen earned her bachelor’s degree in visual communications from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Following graduation, Cat worked in marketing, public relations and art direction for 10 years including a position with WVPT Public Television in Harrisonburg, Va.
Cat left her career in the fall of 1993 to become a stay-at-home mom and moved to Illinois with her husband and three-year-old son.
Craving a creative outlet, Cat began to teach herself to paint in oils, an art medium she had not studied in college. She sold her first oils to members of her small community.
A second collection, “Ribbons of Color,” began as a soul searching mission and a way to purge difficult experiences of her past. From it, she developed a permanent style of illustrative lines and brushstrokes for her work. Known as pure power, Clausen’s colorist ‘ribbons of color’ cascaded down canvases and transformed her new found creative outlet into a full blown career.
As Clausen found resolution in her own personal story, she began to seek out the story of others. The “Icons” collection followed with portraits of political and educational leaders and musicians, as well as her beloved Abraham Lincoln.
Treasured by many in his home state of Illinois, Clausen’s Lincoln has gone on to grace the covers of magazines; a book; a mural in Springfield, IL; an original oil that hangs in the White House West Wing; as well as banners throughout the city of Chicago and Springfield, IL.
Even as her work brought her more acclaimed recognition with appearances on WGN news and a trip to Italy in honor of her Lincoln, a commission for Yoko Ono – a new vision came to her.
She awoke one day with the images of two Indian chiefs in her mind. She knew they were leading her to her next works.
And so the “Visions” collection was conceived. Months of researching, including trips to Chicago’s Newberry Library and a two-week journey to the stomping grounds of her youth, led her back to the simplest of places.
With a thought, a brush, some paint and a canvas, Clausen developed her “Visions," collection.
It was simple and pure and and moving.
As time passed Cat reflected once again on her roots and from a window-filled front porch, on a quiet street, in an unassuming town, Cat’s newest works of portraiture and seascapes come to life with a bold illustrative statement.
By Sara Peters.