By Amber Kruth
Kate Barger started out as most artists do, using pencil and charcoal in drawings and murals. Steadily, she acquired a more expansive repertoire using wood, clay, pastels, fabric and beads. Her inspiration is found in nature and wildlife, and her life follows a path of honor and commitment to these influences. It is her current form of expression that illustrates this passion most truly; although her path of work from a young age demonstrates her respect for all things living.
She has lived simply in nature, raising cattle, llamas, horses, cats, dogs and other abandoned creatures. She has worked amongst animals at humane societies, horse rescue organizations, a wildlife zoo and a cattle ranch. It was near this cattle ranch, in rural Oregon, that her greatest artistic inspiration evolved. On a walk in the woods Kate observed the skeletal remains of a cow overgrown by blackberry bushes. The contrast of the blooming bush and the stark white skull created a wave of inspiration that is with Kate to this day. She said there is something transcendental about the form of animal skulls, when they are touched by human imagination and transformed into something almost spiritual.
“To me, they represent a strength in all creatures,” Kate said introspectively. “Skulls are up to an inch thick in some places and as thin as paper in others. Bones are a frame for life, a rigid self-sustaining cage to carry us through the day and all our challenges.”
The skulls Kate chooses are mostly from cow and the four-horned Jacob Sheep, although recently she is expanding to Navajo Sheep, deer and other animals. Her connection to each skull is absorbed directly by placing the skull in her house. She lives with it until it reveals its destiny. Both Western and Native American patterns are a muse to Kate’s creations. From there it is a matter of only a few days, up to several weeks for the beaded pieces before the piece is complete.
To purchase or learn more about Kate’s artwork visit her website at fortmarshallstudios.tripod.com. Her work can also be viewed or purchased at “83 Spring Street Gallery” in Eureka Springs.
By Amber Kruth