An Intimate Embrace with Nature

An Intimate Embrace with Nature
By Anna Horsnell

Kate McKenna feels a reverence for this planet that goes far beyond Earth Day. As a fine art photographer, she seeks to connect people with nature by sharing a way of seeing that touches something primal, something ancient inside us. She invites us to recognize our landscape in a new way.

McKenna’s images take the viewer up close and personal. So close that the details of tree bark, rock, and sand become abstracted, drawing attention to shapes and colour, sculptural aspects, and the beauty of creation. “I want to be close. I want to be real. I can do that with the Earth. It allows me to do that,” she explains, adding ”my hope is to share that experience.”

Choosing what to photograph requires patience and commitment. She takes the time to be open and present to what is there. She revisits a location at different times, in different light, and approaches from different angles. “The subject finds me,” she smiles. The intimacy McKenna evokes through her lens is her way of communicating and connecting with the natural environment, to honour a sacred appreciation.

This province is home. She feels the history of this place where her ancestors came to live and work under often challenging conditions. There can be hardness here, a backbone of rock, but this too is filled with spirit. She enjoys the exploration from beach to forest and beyond. “Nova Scotia is a good place to do work.”

Like many artists, McKenna’s career path has not been a straight line. She was born in Pictou, studied in Toronto and Halifax, worked as a therapist, and has lived in a variety of places from northern Ontario and Mexico, to Montreal and finally Windsor, here in the Valley.

A six day visit to Mexico inspired McKenna to move to San Miguel de Allende for eight years, and it is there that she discovered her passion for photography. Nurtured by the vibrant culture and an engaging community, she benefited from the generosity of fellow artists which allowed her to grow and mature in her art very quickly.

It was also in Mexico that McKenna’s work began an exciting evolution into original textile designs and wearable art. She remembers,”the inspiration for doing this began in the summer of 2012. As part of a solo exhibition of my photographs in Mexico, I printed a 4 x 12 foot composite photograph on silk. It was hung as a floating vertical installation in the gallery entranceway. When I first saw it–shape shifting in the wind, backlit by the Mexican sun–I was transported. I experienced the images in a different, and a much more sensual way.”

McKenna chooses her images carefully, designing the composite patterns to print on silk and cotton silk blends, and then overseeing the creation of each garment. It is a magical moment to see static subjects such as a tree or rock further transformed into fluid movement, wrapped around the human figure.

What’s next? McKenna envisions seeing her designs come alive through theatre or dance. She relishes her ongoing artistic journey and she is grateful to give back, celebrating “the preciousness of this earth.” See Kate’s unique photography hanging prominently on the walls of Winegrunt in Windsor and visit her website at kateMCKENNAdesign.com.

Photo: Kate McKenna