If there’s anything we’ve all learned over the last couple of years, it’s the importance of the arts during times of transition and uncertainty. It can bring us peace in the chaos yet simultaneously challenge the status quo. But it has become an all too familiar practice that when we need art the most, its funding is cut. To help the arts continue to thrive in our community, The Independence has put together a Creatives Fellowship Program, which provides a place to stay for artists who wish to get away and have a quiet space to work on their craft. From writers to photographers, painters and vocalists, The Independence welcomes all kinds of artists to spend a week with us and do what artists do best: create. 

With monoprint, an impression is printed from a reprintable block, such as an etched plate or woodblock, but in such a way that only one of its kind exists.

Catherine works in several mediums including print, fabrics, ceramics, and blogging!

Today we are excited to introduce you to one of our most recent participants in the Fellowship Program, printmaker (amongst other things) Catherine Rondthaler. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Catherine has been an artist as long as she can remember. “[My mom] recognized that I really needed art supplies,” Catherine said. “So my earliest memories are of making art. It’s who I am. My medium is just to make.”

Monoprint series, 2011.

After studying with several talented teachers, (Sylvia Wheeler, Kim Hartzel, Steve Hays, Jim Hubbard, and Virginia Bandcamp to name a few) Catherine fell in love with printmaking, specifically Monotype. It produces only one image, and Catherine believes it to be closer to painting and sculpture than printmaking. “The thought process is reductive,” she says. “Instead of adding paint to a surface to make your image, you take it away.” Catherine often refers to her work, however, as “mixed media,” as it helps allow others to understand the singularity of the final project, and in turn, the price. There is no copy of what one will buy. The piece is a true original.

In addition, Catherine works with fabric and textiles. This goes back to her childhood when she and her sister would make clothes for their troll dolls. “Fabric and textiles have been an obsession,” she told us. “I love to see how people handle something that someone has spent hours and hours making.” Sometimes there’s a beautiful practicality to art. Other times, however, what art communicates transcends what’s practical or even verbal, and becomes a feeling that each individual can interpret differently. For Catherine, if someone interprets a piece of art differently than the artist intended, that artist has still communicated something in their language (or as Catherine would put it, their “visual dialect”). That is why her work rarely has titles. Catherine does not want to tell anyone what a piece means, because regardless of what it invokes, it is still from her: a conversation without words.

Plate and reworked ghost monotype, 2017.

After a monotype is pulled, the plate usually has a faint layer of ink left behind. You can lay another sheet of soaked and blotted printmaking paper on the sheer layer of remaining ink on the plate to pull a ghost print.

Lately, Catherine’s projects have shifted to more political themes, which is what she focused on during her time at The Independence. Catherine worked on a second piece of a series that involved assembling and sewing dozens of American flags in a way that expresses her current feelings on the American political climate. “After Trump was elected,” she said. “I went to the women’s march. It was pretty amazing. It completely changed my thought process about how to have conversations with people you don’t agree with. How do you talk to people from where they are and understand the motivation from the other side?” The piece is over ten feet tall, and the center flag, which is lined with black velvet, has been assembled upside down. “It’s supposed to say we need help,” Catherine told us. After all, art is a way to have a conversation with people. “My end of the political spectrum is going to see this and think, ‘Yeah, it’s all going to hell,’ and yet, the other side might also look at it and think, ‘Yeah, it’s all going to hell.’” But from what perspectives? What different feelings will a single piece of art conjure, and what questions can arise from that? “We’ve all had our eyes opened over the last two years about the importance of art in our lives,” Catherine continued. “It’s important to have something visual to stimulate the conversation.” Catherine’s hope is that you look at her work and think, “How does this make me feel?” Then take the time to answer that and talk to others about it.

This piece was made on January 6th 2021 while Catherine was listening to the radio broadcast of the insurrection. Mixed media on paper with gold and silver.

Catherine calls this piece ‘One Nation Indivisible’. It used to hang in her studio (before she moved into a new space). 

Catherine’s desire for a better future though doesn’t stop her from having a sense of humor about the role of the artist in the United States. When asked what advice she had for up-and-coming artists, Catherine said with a quiet chuckle, “Marry rich.” Art is work, but it doesn’t get paid as such, and Catherine believes that until we live in a society that pays artists what they deserve, it’s a painful truth that an artist needs income to supplement the luxury of having time for the studio. That is one of the reasons she was so grateful for her time at The Independence. “It’s different from studio space,” she said. “It helps you let go of preconceived ideas of what you’ll get done.” The length of the fellowship was especially useful. “If you’re only working for a day or two,” she said, “you go and think, ‘This is what I’m going to get done.’ And then you do it and you’re done. But when you have more time, you get something done, but then you do something else you didn’t know or even think you were going to do. Your work benefits from ‘getting past the grain.’”

The team at The Independence loves to hosts artists!

In addition to The Independence, Catherine spent some time at Estudio Corazon in New Mexico last fall. 

Catherine wishes that all artists could be given the opportunity to separate themselves from ‘the plan,’ as it is inevitably invaluable to the work.  Find Catherine’s art on her website on Instagram. If you’re an artist yourself (or know one who could benefit from this fellowship) the application is available on our website, and we at the hotel are excited to greet you for your time of uninterrupted creating!