Kim on Blaze with brother, Kirk. – 1965
Kim at Henri Gallery – 1989
Aunt Lee Deffebach in front of one of her paintings
Kim during her residency at the deYoung Museum– 2000
Kim’s biography begins like this: born in Queens, raised in South America.
The child of a military attaché (a fervent modern and pop-art collector) and an artist, she and her three brothers moved around a lot as children. And in every location, Kim’s parents never failed to take them to the local museums - sharing their deep love of paintings with the young and impressionable brood.
Apparently that affection was catching. “I took up painting seriously in my mid-30s,” she says. “I’d paint things then tear them up because they weren’t good enough.” But instead of heading back to the easel, she fell in love with the torn edges and made collages out of the pieces. In 1989, her first show, at the Henri Gallery in Washington, D.C. included 8 of these collages and four paintings that managed to survive intact. The work sold. Bach got a good review in The Washington Post and a life-long love of painting took off.
Besides her artistic family (Her aunt is the well-known abstract impressionist, Lee Deffebach.), Kim was tremendously influenced by her stay, in 1992, at the artist’s community Yaddo, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She says, “As a young, single mother of one son, the idea of two months when you didn’t have to support yourself and could just think about painting was really appealing to me.” She could just paint, and paint, and paint. With breakfast and dinner served in the library and lunch delivered to her studio, she never had to lift a domestic finger. Paradise!
“Because of the size of my work,” says Bach, “they assigned me to a large greenhouse with terrific light and loads of space. By this time I was working on large murals and here, I could make them as big as I pleased.” But - good news; bad news. The artist just happened to be in residence during the winter months – a particularly bleak time in the Northeast. “Everything was white,” she says. “White snow. White sky. Nothing growing. I’d just arrived from California where I was living at the time (Berkeley) and I wasn’t used to this lack of color.” So when she opened her lunch box and found a beautiful green pear, she was entranced. “That pear,” she raves, “I was transfixed. It had energy, color, LIFE!” Inspiration and salvation for a sun-starved Californian.
Kim began painting that pear, and the other fruits that followed. She looked forward to the muses that arrived each day at noon. More than just still lifes, Kim’s paintings of fruit took on motion and dimension. Her West Coast aesthetic was fulfilled in her representations of purple grapes, red apples, green pears – and musical notes.
A fellow artist-in-residence was Lowell Liebermann. Each ensconced in their studio during the day, Yaddo artists often craved human companionship after long hours alone. The well-known composer and Bach hit it off and would frequently share the fruits (no pun intended) of their day’s labors with one another. Liebermann added charcoal musical notes to Kim’s canvasses – which she would subsequently incorporate into her work.
One other aspect of her time at Yaddo continues to appear in the artist’s works today - the vertical lines that bisect images. Remember that greenhouse? “Those foot long panes of glass,” she says. “I kept breaking up my images because that’s how I was seeing the world.” Today Bach’s paintings often include those same divisions.
All-in-all, by the time Kim headed back to her home in California she was filled with new ideas and excited about painting. “The collaboration with musicians and writers, and having 24-hours a day of non-stop sleep and painting just blew everything wide open for me,” Bach says. “My work progressed exponentially.”
That Yaddo residency is just one of the influences that has helped form Kim Bach, the artist. “My mother was a self-taught artist.” she says. “Besides museums, we were always looking at books together. I’d say I was pretty influenced by Matisse, DeKooning, Alice Neel and Grace Hartigan. And I had a print of Paul Klee over my bed.”
“I was horse crazy as a teenager, too,” she explains. “There are distinct differences between the pears and the horses as subject matter. Pears act as models to give me inspiration. With horses, it’s all out of my head. I don’t do any preliminary sketches. They are all about movement. I call the horse pictures drawings – even though they are charcoal and pencil and oil stick. But, whenever I’ve tried to fill them in, they get too static. It’s the motion that is so appealing.”
She also includes Professor Judy Foosaner among her influences. Foosaner, an abstract painter herself, met Kim when she was a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. “I was always thinking I needed more training, more schooling, in order to be an accomplished artist,” Kim says. “But Judy told me something that set me free. She said, ‘You already know what you’re doing. Just go out and get a studio and keep painting!’ That was right before my first show at the Henri Gallery. It was all the push I needed.”
Monet may have added a little to that push, too. “The garden at Giverny,” Kim sighs. “I visited there with my Mother and I think it had a lasting effect on both of us. If I weren’t painting pears, I’d probably be trying to reproduce that beauty.”
Even back then, Bach worked with oil sticks instead of acrylics. “Oils are like butter to me,” Bach explains. “Acrylics are too plastic.” And brushes took her too far away from the surfaces. “With my big paintings, I have to move. The painting process becomes a sort of dance and the oil stick is my wand.”
If you were visiting the deYoung Museum (San Francisco) in 1999, you would have had an opportunity to watch some of that dancing yourself. Kim was an artist-in-residence behind a glass wall. “People could walk by and watch me at work,” she says. “It was fun to be in such a major museum.”
It also gave her the chance to spend time every day with the turtles. “These two artists had put a camera at the bottom of a turtle pond in front of the museum,” she explains. “And they had a room where the images were projected onto all four walls and the ceiling. Each day before I started painting, I’d go in that room and lay on the floor. It was like being in a Monet lily painting. All of a sudden, a turtle would swim by. I could see the underneath of the lily pads and have this great sensation of being part of this wonderful pond life.” Reflections of Giverny, perhaps?
From 2000 until 2006, Kim worked within sight of another body of water – The East River in Manhattan. It must have been fate, but she ended up renting a 3,000 square foot apartment on the docks of The Brooklyn Navy Yard. “The light and space were extraordinary,” she says. Kim had received an MA in Photography and was teaching at Long Island University. But every chance she got, she’d be dancing away in front of over-sized canvases – making bigger and bigger paintings. “I think I stayed in the City for so long just because the studio space was so spectacular.”
Eventually, Brooklyn’s view of the East River gave way to Hudson, NY, arguably one of the most beautiful riverfront towns in New York State, where Kim lives and paints today. She has been represented by a local gallery, McDaris Fine Art, for the past 5 years.