Katherine Porter, Painter of Intuitive Expressionism, Dies at 82

Katherine Porter, a painter who carried an intuitive, dreamy, vividly colored branch of Expressionism into the 21st century, died on April 22 at her home in Santa Fe, N.M. She was 82.

LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe, which represents her, said the cause was a heart attack.

Ms. Porter used a standard, if slightly idiosyncratic, vocabulary of early modernist abstraction: thick, freely floating steps, curves and spirals; triangles, squares and a plethora of circles; occasional incursions into meaning and representation, like snippets of writing, depictions of barbed wire or shapes that evoke buildings, weather or pointed arch windows; and stormy collisions of these elements that seemed to have overflowed onto the canvas under their own power.

What was distinctive about Ms. Porter’s version was its large scale, its unmistakably unfiltered quality — and its color.

Unlike the figurative Expressionists, who altered colors to heighten their emotional effects, or the purely Abstract Expressionists, for whom colors had meaning only on canvas, Ms. Porter had a palette that was entirely personal, making contact with the natural world just long enough to spirit viewers back into her own psychology.

In “Fire, Water, Sun and Moon,” a 1979 canvas more than 11 feet long that belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, a diagonal wave of curling blue lines shoots across the frame while a small yellow sun in the upper right corner shines in vain against a troubled pink sky. Pink sky and blue waves spark a sense of recognition — but toppling gold and lavender towers above the wave, and a thrumming black circle beneath, transform the scene from an external place to an interior vision.

Ms. Porter’s “New York Number” (1986-87) is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.Credit…The Metropolitan Museum, New York, Joseph H. Hazen Foundation Purchase Fund, in honor of Cynthia Hazen Polsky, 1989/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
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