Arts & Culture » Visual Art

eMotion in Motion

Artist Brenda Kaye paints her vision of Idaho

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Brenda Kaye's blissful, energetic personality reflects the recent success of her art. With 21 paintings housed at Tamarack Resort, constant commissions under way and even more pieces for sale at Art of Framing Gallery in Boise, Kaye has good reason to be excited. Interestingly enough, the style she's becoming so well known for, "eMotionistic," developed by accident and is extremely different from her original style of painting.

Kaye first moved to Idaho when she was 2 years old. She left as a young adult but returned eight years ago, deciding at that point to focus her energy on painting. She had always liked painting, but in elementary school, she always received low grades on her artwork. Finally, in middle school, her teacher discovered the problem--Kaye was turning in unfinished work due to the limited time frame. He gave her the opportunity to finish, which resulted in both better grades and immaculately detailed work.

In 1998, when Kaye began to paint exclusively, her slow, detailed work habits persisted. Her first realistic painting, First Beloved, took two years to complete. A still life of a vase of flowers, the work is so detailed it makes the viewer feel like a bee--familiar with the texture and curve of each petal. Though First Beloved took her a long time to create, it is admirable how determined she was to finish what she had promised herself. It seems as though the two years were really spent negotiating with herself whether she really wanted to take the chance of being an artist, deciding to do so, and then committing to her art.

Although Kaye began as a realistic painter and still practices this form, in 2000, she started painting a variety of recreational scenes and is now known for her eMotionistic style of painting. "I was working on a piece, Triple Crown, but didn't like the way it turned out, so I scraped off the paint to leave a flat surface I could paint over later," says Kaye. She then set the painting on a windowsill, not thinking anything about it. A friend who came over to visit her studio wanted to buy the painting. "It wasn't even done; I hadn't repainted it yet," Kaye's eyes widen with excitement as she tells her story. Although she wasn't content with the work, she began to see what her friend was admiring.

Looking at one of Kaye's eMotionistic paintings establishes eternity out of one moment. Her paintings freeze chaotic scenes presenting stillness and breath, but at the same time, they maintain the invigorating energy and emotion of the scene. Consider, for example, her painting titled Jockey for Position. This painting was created out of three photographs of horse racing. (Some of the photos were of Idaho-bred Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who starred in the movie Sea Biscuit.) The painting exhibits five jockeys and their horses coming around a corner. The rider on the right is in the lead, the three along the middle hold tight to each other, and the rider on the left is behind, but seems to be gaining on the rest. Kaye's thick, diagonally smeared paint strokes remind viewers of how fast the scene would arrive and vanish in real life, keeping a hurried feeling, but allowing viewers to relax and breathe, something never done during an actual race. The tension is still there while briefly put on hold.

It is interesting how Kaye's minutely detailed tendencies transformed into painting with a slightly blurry quality. Did she finally loosen up a little and decide to forget the minutiae? I think not. I believe the details are still hidden under the thick, smudged strokes. If anything, there is even more detail; these paintings just have movement as well.

In the summer of 2004 after Kaye had further developed her eMotionistic style, she was working on a show for the non-defunct Spirit Rock Fine Art Gallery in Donnelly when she met Jean-Pierre Boespflug, CEO of Tamarack Resort. In her showing, she wanted to feature scenes from the local area and because Tamarack is close by, she decided to paint scenes from the mountain. While meeting with the marketing director at the Tamarack headquarters in Boise, Kaye had her paintings sprawled over a table in the conference room and Boespflug walked by and saw her work. He liked her style and stated that her paintings were what Tamarack needed. She then painted seven different images of Tamarack for her showing at Spirit Rock Gallery. They included paintings of sheep, kayaking, mountain biking, sailing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding. Boespflug immediately agreed to buy all seven. Kaye had to scramble to produce all new paintings for her gallery showing, but surely didn't mind. Out of the 21 pieces at the Lodge and Seven Devils Pub, all are originals except six prints. Boespflug has also announced Kaye as the premier oil painter for Tamarack.

While most of Kaye's paintings at Tamarack depict Idaho's recreational abundance, she has some realistic paintings there as well. One painting, Winter's Morning Light captures the snow-covered golf course with a pair of freshly cut, cross-country ski tracks leading up to the lodge. The way both the sunlight and cloud shadows reflect off the snow is so realistic, it is easy to mistake the painting for a photograph.

Kaye also enjoys painting Idaho flowers such as Trillium and Lady Slippers. She takes a tiny, delicate flower, one most people would sooner stomp over than stop to lie down on the ground to photograph, and magnifies their size twenty-fold onto large canvases. Again, the viewer becomes a honeybee, staring into the center of the flower, a small being compared to its vast beauty.

Close to Kaye's eMotionistic style, but very different from her realistic paintings, is her "Mudd Doll" series. Using warm browns and oranges, she paints portraits of dolls, always leaving the face indistinct. "I wanted to capture the warm feeling of comfort you get from a doll, but leave the image generic enough so that viewers can claim the image for themselves," states Kaye. This faceless quality is typical of her eMotionistic works as well, except for a few paintings that clearly depict the person the work was commissioned for. In all, this series is more abstract from her usual paintings, and quite endearing, too. The warm tones are essential, because without the warmth, the faceless dolls could possibly be a little haunting.

At the moment, she has many projects under way; she's working on a painting of Don Weilmunster, a major investor in Tamarack, and hopes to portray him as "the quintessential cattleman he is." However, as much as this may not be surprising, pinning him down is the hardest part.

Kaye also donates paintings each year to different charities. This past year, she donated to Festival of Trees. For 2007, she will be donating a painting of Gary Stevens to a charity of his desire. She will also donate a painting to the Boise State Auction to benefit student scholarships.

View Brenda Kaye's work online at brendakaye.org or visit Art of Framing Gallery, 10536 Fairview, Boise.