Kansas artist showcases work in Holt-Russell Gallery

Story by Hayley Morrical, Writer

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A small-town Kansas enthusiast, artist Debra Payne, has brought her works to campus for a display Sept. 8 to Oct. 18 in the Holt-Russell Gallery. Payne prefers to paint intimate, local landscapes and other spaces that are often overlooked, but “catch her eye.” The show features paintings of harvested fields, campus walkways, arboretums and scenes from alleyways.

“Something just turns my head and I’m just driving around looking to paint. Sometimes I have to get out of my car and walk through the neighborhoods and alleys,” Payne said. “Sometimes with figurative works, it works a lot better. I always work from observation to start with.”

Payne recently completed a residency in Newton, where she spent time in the community to paint local scenes. Many of these works are on display in the Holt-Russell Gallery.

After a residency this year in Lindsborg, Payne hopes to repeat the experience in Baldwin City. Payne has a special interest in Baldwin City and Baker, as her mother is a Baker alumna.

“She’s done a lot of intimate spaces around Newton, which is also what she’d like to do in Baldwin City in a year or so… spaces that we walk by all the time, but sometimes don’t pay attention to,” Professor of Art and Holt-Russell Gallery Curator Inge Balch said. “I felt, too, like the community would appreciate it.”

Balch finds Payne’s exhibit to be unique in the way that the paintings, as a whole, provide a simple user experience.

“They give you a safe homey feeling that we all can relate to, especially if we were brought up in the rural area of Kansas or the Midwest,” Balch said. “They are very safe. By that I mean that they do not ask any questions of the viewers or interpretations. They are what you see.”

Balch also mentioned a fondness of the exhibit due to the way the paintings were set up without titles. She believes that when art is hung without a title, students are allowed to “dream their own stories,” and learn to see, rather than look. Each piece offers a chance at recalling a long-forgotten memory. For Balch, one example of this memory is in the form of Payne’s painting of a green truck.

Both Payne and Balch agree that art gives lessons to each viewer. Payne hopes that Baker students can use her paintings to learn to keep their eyes open.

“Let the world show you what it has to say,” Payne said. “That’s always what art is about, noticing the world around you and making something out of it from your experience.”

Students who interested in learning more about Debra Payne and her artwork can swing by the Holt-Russell Gallery to observe her oil paintings, or contact her at www.debrapaynter.com. For more details regarding future shows in the Holt-Russell Gallery, contact Inge Balch.