Memories, Hopes and Stories

A special show by artist Kathy Houghton


Widely known regional artist Kathryn J. Houghton is premiering a show at Athens Arts on Thursday that she hopes will be “evocative and thought provoking” to viewers.

“Memories, Hopes, and Stories” features one of Montgomery County’s most decorated artists, and it will also have a bonus feature: Houghton will set up her easel in the Gallery so visitors can see her at work when they visit her show. The show continues through March 9. As she completes paintings on site, they will be displayed in the Athens Arts front window at 216 E. Main St. On some days several artists may be painting alongside Houghton.

On Feb. 16, Athens Arts will host an opening for this show between 6-8 p.m. Music will be provided by guitarist Lee Douma and light refreshments will be served. The community is warmly invited to stop by for a fine, artful evening in downtown Crawfordsville.

When Houghton and her husband chose to move to Crawfordsville in 2009, the community became beneficiary to a juggernaut of artistic talent. Houghton not only creates art on canvas, she creates artful spaces, including beautiful gardens and landscapes, and whimsical play spaces for grandchildren. She even raises chickens. Houghton’s at-home art studio is a lively place of color and light. Known especially for her award-winning, detailed paintings of flowers, fruits, and gardens, Houghton sometimes grows and landscapes her own subjects.

There is a playfulness in Houghton’s art that is sometimes entirely unseen by viewers who remain captivated by the brilliant rendering of detail in an iris bud or a daylily stamen. Along with Claude Monet, Houghton might well say, “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” At times, though, play and mastery of detail come together in a way that no viewer can miss: her locally famous rendering of a double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone just starting to melt, invariably brings a chuckle. Even though they know they are looking at a painted object, a person looking at the canvas invariably wants to lick the cone or grab a napkin to catch the drips.

While Houghton’s “flower fame” will always be her most known signature, her eye often widens to see and render landscapes as varied as a placid view of Cataract Falls in quiet autumn, or a group of cows quietly at ease in the shade of leafy summer trees. Her portrayal of our native Midwest blooming prairies or close-ups of stands of meadow grass are arresting. Houghton’s works most often capture moments, capture time, by stopping it — that rare gift of fine natural history painters.

Houghton rarely or explicitly goes for narrative within her work: there are few human figures and the built, industrial environment rarely appears. But when Houghton does “switch gears,” as in her painting “The Story Teller,” something powerful happens. In this 16” x 24” painting we see a young boy in a red shirt and jeans, his hand on his hip, standing a few yards away from a behemoth John Deere combine. His back is to viewers as he contemplates the giant machine which has stopped him in his tracks. What does that towering contraption that harvests our fields here in the 21st century say about and to this universal child? What is the relationship between us fragile human beings and the entire industrial world we have built?

In her new show Houghton plans to do more of this story-telling and hopes it will resonate with viewers. Visit the Gallery between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Houghton’s art talent has sent her work far and wide across the last few decades but its inception was modest. Her first memory of being an artist came from kindergarten when she brought home an outline of a horse colored with brown crayon. As Houghton recalls it, “The assignment was likely given to us to learn the letter Hh.” Her dad was approving of the work and said to his daughter, “If you colored with the crayon in the direction that the hair grows on the horse it would look real.” Ever since then these words have directed Houghton’s development as an artist.

“I have often thought that it would be fun to try other painting techniques but I can never turn off my excitement and fascination for the tiniest and often overlooked details,” she said.

Houghton paints with acrylic paint on stretched canvas.

Kathy Jo, as she is known among her artist friends, has been accoladed with appearances in juried shows and with many prizes and awards. She is a decorated Hoosier Salon artist, winning awards such as Outstanding Floral Painting, Outstanding Acrylic Painting and Popular Choice at this famed state-wide show in 1994. She has been a remarkably beloved artist at the New Harmony Gallery’s Hoosier Salon, winning first place in both 2014 and 2019 as well as winning many “runner up” awards. She is a member of Indiana Artists of the Hoosier Salon and of Athens Arts Gallery.

While winter hangs on for awhile here in central Indiana, take some time to come and visit Athens Arts and see not only a show full of talent, color and light, but also enjoy watching a dedicated, talented artist at work.