Sharon Martens Ksander

Sharon Martens Ksander
14 Arrangements
March 28 - May 12, 2024

Opening Reception: First Friday Gallery Walk
April 5, 5:00 - 8:00pm
Special Music by Pat Otto, 6:00 - 7:30pm


 Artist’s statement:

“I’m not really a flower painter. These paintings weren’t made all at once, or in one year, but over the last twenty years or so, mostly in the early fall, when the zinnias were in season, or in the spring, when the daffodils and irises were blooming. Most of my work has been portraits, landscapes, and interiors with figures, so painting flowers has been a sort of palate cleanser between courses for me, a sorbet.

There’s a freedom in painting flowers because there’s no expectation to tell a story or deal with history or something psychological or emotional like when you have a figure. So I could just explore the formal aspects of painting, which hold the most interest for me anyway, like color adjacencies, the relationship of the positive and negative shapes, the way the edges between them are lost and found, and the way that hide-and-go-seek keeps your eye traveling around the canvas. Some of my favorite things to look at are from the decorative arts, like William Morris wallpaper, or designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. When we lived in Poland I fell in love with the paintings of Stanislav Wypiański, who was part of Art Nouveau. I also love the decisive bravura technique of painters like Sargent, Boldini, Cecilia Beaux, Franz Hals, and George Bellows.

As long as I’m engaged in the process, the painting stays alive to me, and it’s fun. When I was in graduate school at American University, there weren’t too many who seemed to be having fun, even though they were making solid paintings. I enjoyed Alice Neel’s visit (photo: Alice Neel) to our program. She never worried about being correct. She lived life exactly the way she wanted and she painted that way too. When she visited us, she was quite old and cussed a lot and told stories about all her lovers.

When I was growing up in Iowa and Alaska my aunt always grew zinnias and marigolds in the garden. I tried growing them in Alexandria where I live but didn’t have as much luck, so I mostly buy them from the farmers’ market. The flower seller used to try to sell me mixed bouquets but I told him I only wanted the zinnias, so he calls me the “zinnia lady.” Some of my neighbors grow them for me now too. I suppose I could paint any other flowers, or just bottles and pots like Morandi, so there must be a reason I keep coming back to zinnias. I would never paint a rose, for example.

Zinnias Growing, 2011 by Sharon Martens Ksander

Zinnias are hardy and resilient and their shape is sculptural, as are irises. When I paint a bouquet of zinnias each one seems to be vying for my attention, with its own personality. Each zinnia has a distinctive contour and posture – you can’t just estimate, you have to really observe. But some are stars and others are supporting characters. I enjoy bringing some of them out while others remain purely two-dimensional. I guess I can’t help but think of them as figures in a story. I’m not putting specific stories into these pictures. But since painting keeps my mind busy solving puzzles, my guard is down, so everything I think and feel at the time probably seeps into through osmosis. (pictured: Zinnias Growing, 2011 by Sharon Martens Ksander)

When I look at these pictures, I think of how much I enjoy sunny afternoons in my studio. I have always felt so lucky to have this calling that makes life so interesting.” 

Sharon has loved getting back to the Midwest over the last 25 years since her daughter Yaël and then her son Jens settled in Bloomington, where they have raised Sharon’s grandchildren, Solveig, Jarno, and Bodhi.

Sharon Martens Ksander
is a painter who lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. She has had numerous solo exhibitions at the Veerhoff Gallery, Avant Garde Gallery, Thomson-McKinnon Securities, and Franklin Court Building, all in Washington, D.C.; Gallery West and the Lyceum in Alexandria, VA; Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo, NC; and the International Club of Warsaw, Poland.

Martens Ksander’s work has been exhibited in group shows at the Arts Club of Washington, Women’s National Democratic Club, the Museum of Contemporary Art DC, the Art Barn at Rock Creek, Watkins Gallery (American University), Dimoch Gallery (George Washington University), Corcoran School Gallery, and The Slide Registry, all in Washington, D.C.

She has also been included in group shows at the Marlborough Gallery, Strathmore Hall Arts Center, the Addison Gallery in Maryland, the Morales Art Gallery in Nags Head & Duck, N.C., Gallery West, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, of which she was a founding member in the 1970s. Her work belongs to the collections of the Alexandria History Museum, the Alexandria Library, and many private collections.

(pictured: Martens Ksander visiting the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre in Paris France)

Martens Ksander has held teaching positions at Mount Vernon College, in the Prince George Community College system, and at Harmony Hall Center for the Arts, all in the D.C. metropolitan area, and was a member of the Alexandria City Arts Commission. Martens Ksander earned her M.F.A. at American University where she studied with Robert d’Artista and Ben Summerford. Previously, she studied painting with William Woodward at the Corcoran School of Art at George Washington University.

Sharon was born in western Iowa and moved as a youngster to Anchorage, Alaska, where most of her extended family settled permanently. Sharon, on the other hand, relocated to Seattle and ultimately Washington, D.C. While raising three children, Sharon established her painting career, showing in local galleries, doing portrait commissions, and taking frequent painting trips to have her breath taken away by the cliffs in Brittany, the Alaska Range, and the vista from Cinque Terre. For what it lacks in stunning landscapes, Washington has been a stimulating home base for someone who loves museums, opera, ballet and theater, foreign films, Japanese restaurants, and a good jazz station on the radio.

Sharon Martens Ksander
visiting a flower market

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