Katie DeGroot

Artist Statement

I have been focusing on painting trees and their cast off limbs, i.e. sticks, for many years.

Trees are completely individual. They are adapters and survivors, each one unique, and I think that is something most people don’t think about.

We are taught to look at trees based on a stereotype, the image of a perfectly pruned tree is the one most people have in their heads, balanced and symmetrical. But in nature those rarely exist. Trees grow to survive, they adapt to their given environment, growing into strange shapes, producing oddly shaped limbs, becoming contortionists to get to sunlight, bowing to the will of other larger trees. They grow in context to each other and their neighbors, adapting as best they can to the situation they find themselves in.

While my artwork has always been based on a traditional observation process, the final appearance of the objects in my paintings is grounded in contemporary ideas and concerns and by my own quirky interpretation of the objects’ personality. These objects allow me to explore my interests in surrealism, (especially the Chicago artists collective The Hairy Who), and abstraction along with pursuing the pure physical pleasure of painting.

My current pieces have developed from my compulsive observation of the trees in my “neighborhood” in upstate New York. I am always looking for new trees and I find my subjects by the side of the road or on hiking trails in nature preserves. Often I will ask for permission to cut down a tree on someones’ property after lusting after it for some time.

The last few trees (7' long) that I have brought back to my studio have reminded me of Las Vegas show girls, adorned with cascading mushrooms, moss, and vines. They stand out in all their finery, in juxtaposition to the other plainer trees. Of course the irony is that these beautiful trees are dead and dying trees, and their finery is the work of decomposers set on reducing them to a rich addition to the earth beneath them.

My paintings honor my subjects’ singular elegance and imagined personality, and I hope they can remind viewers to celebrate beauty in unexpected places.