Artist Kate Joiner spends a lot of time paying attention to her surroundings. Sure, what she sees inspires her creativity and what she paints, but it also informs her sensitivity to the environment, conservation and development. In her latest solo show — “The Land We Love” at the Encinitas Community Center, which runs through August 31 — she uses more than two dozen new pieces to focus on the North County landscapes.
“By combining these landscapes with a connection to land development, I’ve found I can use my art as a vehicle to engage local residents to become more aware of what’s changing around them,” says Joiner, whose artist reception for their exhibition from 5:30 to 20:30 today at the community center. “In the long term, development and climate change go hand in hand, and to learn more about one, you should consider how it affects the other.”
Joiner, 58, owns Sunny Creek Studios and lives in Carlsbad with her partner Peter Avila and their son Noe. She is a member of the San Dieguito Art Guild, the Oceanside Museum of Art’s Artist Alliance, and won an honorable mention and an Artist’s Choice Award at the museum’s 2021 Plein Air Festival. She took some time to talk about how her environmentalism intersects with her artistic perspective, and her hope that her artworks, with their bright colors and happier imagery, can also be used to encourage dialogue and solutions around land development and… – to promote conservation.
Q: What do you want to say with your pieces exhibited in The Land We Love?
A: Take a drive along US Route 101 and you’ll see sheer beauty. What is often overlooked is the development, which often goes unnoticed until it is too late. By introducing parts of my work that viewers are familiar with and using bright colors to bring joy, I present them with an alternative point of view. At what point in our life do we talk about the fact that change will always happen and look at the positive and negative effects of development and whether we need to choose sides? What are the basic moods of development in our cities? The give and take of commerce versus nature. What are the pros and cons of individual connectedness with the community? Put simply, the longer you live in a community the more development you see and experience, but remember when there were no buildings or houses on certain plots?
Q: In your bio on your website, you talk about how you enjoy exploring how people connect with the environment in the form of the California landscape. How did your relationship with the environment in general begin?
A: For me, that was Pacific Beach in the 80’s when on-street parking was a big problem. I learned how developers had to allocate two slots per new residence (I’m sure that has changed since). Fast forward to now, and while my relationship was once about protecting the environment and our open spaces, it’s now about the need for housing and growth.
Q: What do you hope people will understand about their surroundings when they engage in your work?
A: Let’s start the dialogue with an awareness of what is going on. I bring them in with the color and happiness. When we look around without distraction while walking or driving, we see things differently and may be open to big-picture discussions.
What I love about Karlovy Vary…
It’s absolutely gorgeous where I live! I’m only 3 miles from the coast so I have sunny skies without too much heat.
Q: How did you start as a visual artist?
A: It really took my friend Pepper Prieto to convince me to go back to college at 19. Seeing some of my random tiny surf paintings, she encouraged me to become an artist. I majored in graphic design at San Diego State University, but I was terrible at it. The good news was that the major was so popular that they offered us painting classes to replace those we couldn’t attend. I fell in love with figurative work and was heavily inspired by the late artist and professor Janet Cooling. After school I went into advertising.
Q: How would you describe your perspective as an artist?
A: People would kill me for it, but I don’t think art is sacred. It is there to convey a message. Imagine going shopping and feeling the texture of the fabric before you buy it. I have the same feeling with a painting. I’m allowed to touch my own work, but I wish the viewer could too. The goal is to get a viewer to become more part of the play, leading to a stronger memory of the experience.
Q: You also mentioned that you once painted landscapes as backdrops, before your focus on the local country sparked a passion for learning more about the country itself and the memories associated with it. Where in California did you grow up? What did you learn about this country and what kind of memories do you associate with this country?
A: I grew up in Southern California, with a 2 year stint in Australia and a year in Hawaii before I turned 19. Since then, I’ve called Pacific Beach, La Jolla, downtown San Diego, and Carlsbad my home. New buildings appear while old memories are torn down. Five years ago I focused on one character to tell a story and I chose to include some of the open spaces just off El Camino Real in the background. However, it is only a matter of time before this country will be gone. My personal memories of time spent in the beach community will inevitably change to accommodate population growth. If I’m playing the “I remember” game, I might say, “Remember when the road didn’t go all the way through Leucadia Boulevard?” or “Remember when the Carlsbad Ranch bulb fields stretched for miles along the interstate 5 extended?” or “Remember when Carlsbad Raceway ran along McClellan-Palomar Airport?” These places were open spaces again, but made room for us.
Q: How have these memories and experiences influenced you as an artist?
A: When painting landscapes, everyone seems to have a memory of it. It makes me think of how legitimate my issues with development are, but pale in comparison to how development history has impacted communities like Southeast San Diego. It leads me to examine San Diego as a whole and not just North County.
Q: What has your work as an artist taught you about yourself?
A: This art can be an educational tool. I have learned so much more by reading about climate change and development by looking at the pros and cons of building and how both sides have valid arguments and with the knowledge and input of the community we can move towards a better solution come.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: “Life is too short to do business with a ——-.” I am fortunate to have the luxury of working with some of the best clients who have become friends. When you have a positive connection, that relationship tends to grow, and personally, many good things have come from those relationships.
Q: What would surprise people if they found out about you?
A: I applied for a degree in 1987 but was missing a credit (no, thanks to the bars in Pacific Beach), so I went back and graduated from SDSU with a multimedia arts degree in 2016.
Q: Please describe your ideal weekend in San Diego.
A: With COVID-19 I’m happy to be a homebody but would make a great tour guide. I would suggest a morning hike at Torrey Pines or the Seven Bridges Hike; grilled feta cheese for lunch at Mimmo’s in Little Italy or the best tortillas at Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan; and catch the sunset at South Ponto Beach in Encinitas or at Oceanside Pier.