Christina Klein

Building West by Christina Klein

Recipient of the 2016-2017 Graduate Excellence in the Visual Arts Award

Artist Website

Artist Biography

Growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, I have always been an eager explorer. There is always something new to discover and endless materials to build with, making it the perfect upbringing for any creative mind. My passion for making eventually led to my decision to study Fine Arts at Kansas State University. I also studied abroad for half a year in Austria, as well as one year in Germany, which has greatly influenced my artistic practice. Currently, I am furthering my education at Florida State University where I will earn my Master’s of Fine Arts Degree

Artist Statement

Once the curtain is drawn to enter my studio, you are immediately greeted with piles of raw wood, lumber, window frames, paint, paper, photos and stacks of materials that I just cannot seem to part with. Tiptoeing through the rubble gives guests a glimpse into my mind, filled with images of the abandoned houses and barns that inspire me.

Having grown up in rural Kansas, I have seen the remnants of disaster, both natural and manmade. At first glance, my hometown seems like a sleepy place, although for my community and those like it, there are constant changes. With jobs in short supply, many residents move to bigger cities to find work. Family farm houses and weathered barns are left deserted, remaining as mere skeletons of a life gone by. Big businesses also make their presence known in rural environments with the constant influx of pipelines and power lines that stretch for miles over once empty fields. Factories are built and abandoned as the economy changes. Corporate farms grow larger as they absorb family farms that once existed. Trees planted after the Dust Bowl to protect against erosion are not being bulldozed to make every inch available for production.

Researching and documenting these changes is the driving force in my current body of work. For the past four years, I have been traveling to abandoned houses to collect visual documentation. My visits to these places has become ritualistic, almost a pilgrimage that I need to make in order to create. Being able to visit places so full of history and decay is the biggest part of my research and could not be done by studying photographs alone. Each location has its own story about the collapse of a way of life. The end of an era. These ideas come into play with my work using disjointed imagery in an attempt to capture the tragic beauty of these deserted locations.

There is also a sense of nostalgia that comes with rural living. Stories of the good old days are commonplace, with a deep sense of longing to make life the same as it once was. But as time passes and the stories are told and retold, they themselves get warped and the memories become fragmented. I have started recording interviews of neighbors, describing life in the Midwest to preserve these memories before they become lost in time. This helps inform a body of work that includes not only my voice, but those in the community that inspired me.

My process subconsciously involves creating the same sort of chaos that inspires me. Every time I enter my work space, piles move and shift as my ideas change, much like a 3D sketchbook, helping me create from the debris. The result of my studio disasters are paintings focusing on fragmented architectural forms that are neither rising, nor falling, but revolving throughout the canvas. My paintings start with wide brush strokes that cut across the canvas with angst filled motions. From there I continue to dissect the painting, adding hints of broken landscapes and domestic structures.

Materiality is an also important aspect of my work. Although my paintings are occasionally supplemented with traditional materials, I am most confident making canvases from old tablecloths and frames from salvaged wood. Supplies that have a history of their own, which can be utilized in the creation process. Artifacts from collapsed barns show tangible evidence of evolving rural landscapes. I have collected and milled wood from trees that were bulldozed for development, striving to use recycled materials before buying new. I try to weave these materials into my projects, much like the brushstrokes that make up the imagery itself. Finding reclaimed materials to work with is an important aspect of my work, also acting as a meditative process that is the source of inspiration for my new projects.

The creation of my current series in the culmination of my emotional connection to the subject matter I am reaching. Each brush stroke and piece of wood has a history originating from its initial inspiration. My goal is to create immersive work that forges an emotional connection with the audience, allowing them to become engaged in the work and offer their own interpretations based on their previous life experiences. Although my work is inspired by my Midwest community, it deals with issues that are universal.


Currently on display in the Honors, Scholars and Fellows House: