The vivid pink clouds scraped across Katrina Rasmussen’s paintings catch the eye first, then the rich light blue underneath and, below, desert landscapes with blooming cacti, yucca, ocotillo and sotol.
That’s intentional. Where some might envision an arid, lifeless landscape of browns and grays, the Dallas artist finds vibrant life. “One of the reasons I’m drawn to painting the desert is because people see it as a very harsh climate, but it’s actually biodiverse. It’s surprising how lively it is,” she said.
Rasmussen, 36, first visited Texas’ Big Bend National Park in 2019 and fell in love with what she found there. The fruit of her Big Bend travels show up in “Milagros: Visions of the Desert,” her first solo exhibition, which opens Saturday at Susan Sistrunk Fine Art Gallery in Waco.
Rasmussen had displayed some work in the gallery’s 2019 show “Equilibrium” and her solo show was originally scheduled for the next year, only to be sidelined by COVID-19 disruptions.
The exhibition offers 15 pieces, from six larger canvases and panels to smaller, more focused studies. Many are on wood panels because they’re firm enough to allow Rasmussen’s favorite medium, Venetian plaster.
Thin layers of colored plaster can be scraped and sanded to reveal other colors underneath and the plaster enables the artist to introduce texture into her work, she explained. “Magic happens when you sand it down,” she laughed. Then there’s an appeal in the unpredictability involved in working with a quick-drying substance. “There’s a little bit of chaos involved with the plaster,” she said.
Creating enough current work for a solo show was a scheduling challenge for Rasmussen, who teaches art at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas. So was finding supplies of Venetian plaster as the pandemic locked up supply chains for many art supplies. Challenges come with the territory, she noted. “Art is always problem solving,” she said.
Rasmussen will be present at the opening reception for “Milagros” on Saturday. The show will run at the gallery for six weeks.