international painting annual 1 exhibition-in-print
online resource

Yvonne Petkus
Bowling Green, KY

Western Kentucky University, Associate Professor

page 134


I believe in 'making' as a means to further understanding or thought and am drawn to the physicality and psychology possible in skin and through spatial experimentation.  I work from a place of questioning, a desire to grasp an unknowable something.  Each piece finds origin in the coexistent and contradictory worlds of self-doubt and extreme conviction.

The surfaces evolve through a type of sculpting, of physically pushing material around to gain hold or purchase.  The marks, the residues, result over time, revealing a text of breaths, struggled over, which combine to hopefully find insight into some aspect of the human condition.

I use painting as a way to search, as a means to probe.  My material, medium-heavy oils, and imagery, female figures in vague spaces, shift and evolve to wade through psychological residues resulting most recently in states of ambiguity, fragmentation, and distortion.  The strategy is a distancing through physical and cognitive processing (distance, here, defined as using visual cues over realistic representation or narration).  I explore the idea of subtle destabilization through constant changes and conflations.  Boundaries are broken, subverted, challenging visual language through tweaks and modifications, moving just far enough away from the familiar to hopefully cause a pause, a hesitation.  It is about finding those small epiphanies that re-tell, in a new way, what we have always really known.

The underlying mechanism is an acknowledgement, a meditation, on the beauty and horror of the limitations of language.  The overarching goal is to use visceral cues and a shifting surface as evidence of the larger human struggle, not in an ideal world but in this world.   



born:North Haledon, New Jersey


University of Washington, MFA, 1996
Syracuse University, BFA, 1991
Camberwell College of Art, London, England, (part of BFA)

selected awards/honors

Artist Enrichment Grant, Kentucky Foundation for Women, 2009
XVI National Third Award/two-person exhibit (Juror: Robert Rosenblum), Viridian Artists Inc., New York, NY, 2006
Individual Artist Al Smith Fellowship Award, The Kentucky Arts Council, 2004
King County Arts Commission/King County Art Gallery, Solo exhibit and grant, 1998

selected publications

Van Nostrand, Jess, (author/juror). 2009 Annual Exhibition. Seattle, WA:  Center on Contemporary Art, p 34-35, 2009
Skipper, Bob, "The Drama and the Gesture", Bowling Green, KY: The Western Scholar, Volume 5, No. 2, p. 26-29 & cover, 2005
New American Paintings; Boston, MA: Open Studios Press, Volume 46, p. 106-109, 2003
Lundin, Norman, The Perception of Appearance: A Decade of Contemporary American Figure Drawing. Seattle and London, ed. Richard West and Debra Byrne, Seattle and London: Frye Art Museum in Association w/University of Washington Press, p. 25 & 137, 2002

selected solo or two-person exhibits

Lucretia C. Begley Art Gallery: Paintings, Columbia, KY, 2010
Artoconecto/Bakehouse Arts Complex during Art Basel Miami: A-B(o)MB Jury Winners, Miami, FL, 2008
Brad Cooper Gallery: Processing the Figure, Tampa, FL, 2008
Artspace: Gestures, Raleigh, NC, 2006

selected group shows

UICA (Urban Institute of Contemporary Art):, Grand Rapids, MI, 2010
Center on Contemporary Art: CoCA Annual, Seattle, WA, 2009
Manifest Gallery: Resistance to Vision: Searching, Sifting, Finding, Seeing, Cincinnati, OH, 2007
Target Gallery at Torpedo Factory: In the Flesh, Alexandria, VA, 2007

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