Kimberly Trowbridge’s paintings strike me as both carefully observed and strangely fantastical. She is a painter versed in Academic tradition and observational painting, and that critical eye is evidenced throughout her wide body of work. Recently Trowbridge has delved into a series of backyard plein-air paintings which are, as she writes, "an active means of connecting with my immediate environment and of coping with a terrifying political and social landscape." She is a current Creative Fellow at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island— 62 acres of lush, Pacific Northwest gardens. She will conduct periods of plein-air research over the next two years, culminating in her first solo museum show at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Fall of 2020.
In Backyard Hemlock (2018), a raking, warm light catches part of a wooden fence and illuminates most of the towering hemlock tree on the other side of it. The sky is a grey blue dotted with jewel-toned clouds. It's an unmistakably PNW scene. In fact, Trowbridge writes that her recent backyard paintings are "honoring of the specific color-key of the PNW palette." In the luscious handling of the paint in this scene she shows a loving concern for mark making. The shapes and colors have been simplified almost as a caricature of the backyard landscape.
Arcadia (2009) is painted with an altogether different palette of glowing, dreamy pinks, blues, and greens. It is a nod to the classical pastoral utopia and hers is populated by lush drapery, plush bedding, and several lounging nude figures. It is a tantalizing and softly erotic scene wherein, according to myth, we, humans, will discover our own mortality.
Watching Things Grow is a painting that speaks to the fundamentally human endeavor of growing plants. It is keyed around the almost-neon yellow-green of the young plants in the foreground and a sole white figure, nude, looks down at them with admiration. The scene appears spotlit and the sky is dark, suggesting someone coming out at night just to check on their garden. The painting, with its contemplative figure and plants in various stages of growth is a perfect allegory for patience-- the type required to grow a garden, sustain a painting practice, or find peace as an adult.