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Miles transports viewers to her ‘Electric Forest’

Amy Millhorn Leonard • Oct 28, 2019 at 4:41 PM

Walk into a forest and you will discover a world of nature in solitude. Hazy light from the sun streams through the tall trees creating dancing shadows and colorful light. This light reflects on perhaps a mountain stream and the smooth and jagged surfaces of rocks creating a prism effect of colors. The dark, leaf-covered forest floor pops of color from wildflowers and foliage, revealed and highlighted. That is exactly what Kingsport native Cathryn Miles has skillfully captured in her collection of abstract paintings entitled “Electric Forest.”

The exhibit is a series of vibrantly colored abstract paintings with imagery inspired by primeval rain forests. It is on display at Abingdon Vineyard and Winery through the end of November.

Known as a prolific contemporary American landscape painter, Miles has constantly strived to experiment using a variety of techniques and tools while studying works of various artists throughout history. Her lifetime of work has grown and changed, and she now feels it has come full circle. She also jokes, “I also paint because I am very fortunate in that it allows me to pay my bills.”

What inspires the now Atlanta-based artist? Much of her work has been inspired by nature especially weather and movement in water and sky. She also draws from patterns in nature displaying a play on the various shapes, textures and surfaces including fossils and animals. Characteristics of her paintings highlight her adept skill at applying thick layers of paint with a palette knife. She has been influenced by both contemporary and traditional artists.

As a small girl, she was fascinated with the patterns she saw in the quilts her grandmother made and has always been obsessed with textiles. “My intent in making paintings is to create a visual connection with the viewer,” she explained.

Paintings by Miles are currently exhibited at the Shain Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina; the Haen Gallery in Asheville and Brevard, North Carolina; as well as in Atlanta. Her works are also displayed as part of permanent collections for notable corporations, colleges, interior design studios, and businesses, as well as in the homes of some public figures throughout the United States.

“I want my work to be something that can be lived with and looked at forever,” Miles says.

Born Cathryn Clower, she grew up in Kingsport and graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School. Cathryn then attended Emory & Henry College in nearby Emory, Virginia, where under the skilled mentorship of George Chavatel, head of the art department, she expanded her knowledge and talents in both painting and drawing. She credits her three-year experience there as a catalyst for her to pursue an artistic career and says, “I have always been a painter and I never seriously considered any other path.”

In pursuit of her true passion, Miles transferred to Atlanta College of Art, now Savannah College of Art & Design, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in printmaking and painting. Later, she obtained a master’s degree from the University of Houston in Texas. Her career has also included teaching art students on the college level at Kennesaw State University, Art Institute of Atlanta and Georgia Perimeter College.

Miles, who now lives in Roswell, Georgia, says she loves to “come home” to the Tri-Cities area.

“I love where I live now, but I am glad to return to where I am from. When I see these beautiful mountains, I regain my true identity,” Miles said.

She makes her home and studio in Roswell with her husband and a menagerie of pets she has rescued and refers to them as her “feline and canine assistants.”

To learn more and see some of her works online, visit www.cathrynmilespaintings.com. To see her “Electric Forest” collection, visit Abingdon Vineyard and Winery at 20530 Alvarado Road, in Abingdon Virginia before Nov. 30.

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