Artist Kate Joiner spends a lot of time paying attention to her surroundings. Sure, what she sees inspires her creativity and what she chooses to paint, but it also informs her sensibilities about the environment, conservation and development. In her latest solo show — “The Land We Love” at the Encinitas Community Center, on display through Aug. 31 — she uses more than two dozen new pieces to focus on the landscapes of North County.
“By pairing these landscapes with a connection to land development, I found I could use my art as a vehicle to engage local residents to take notice of what is changing around them,” says Joiner, whose artist reception for her show is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today at the community center. “In the long run, development and climate change go hand in hand, and to learn about one, you might consider how it affects the other.”
Joiner, 58, owns Sunny Creek Studios and lives in Carlsbad with her partner, Peter Avila, and their son, Noe. She’s a member of the San Dieguito Art Guild, the Oceanside Museum of Art’s Artist Alliance, and won an honorable mention and an Artist’s Choice Award in 2021 at the museum’s Plein Air Festival. She took some time to talk about how her environmentalism intersects with her artistic point of view, and her hope that her artwork, with its bright colors and happier images, can also be used to further dialogue and solutions around land development and conservation.
Q: What do you want to say through your pieces on display in “The Land We Love”?
A: Take a drive along U.S. Route 101, and you see sheer beauty. What is often overlooked is the development, which often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. By introducing pieces of my work that viewers are familiar with, using vibrant colors to bring happiness, I juxtapose them with an alternative view. At what point in our lives do we address that there will always be changes and look at the positive and negative effects of development, and whether we have to choose sides? What are the underlying feelings of development in our cities? The give-and-take of commerce versus nature. What are the pros and cons of individual connectedness to community? Simply stated, the longer you live within a community, you see and experience development, but do you reminisce about when there were no buildings or homes on certain parcels of land?
Q: In your bio on your website, you talk about how you like to explore how humans connect with the environment, in the form of the California landscape. How did your relationship with the environment, in general, begin?
A: For me, it was in the ‘80s in Pacific Beach, when street parking was a huge issue. I was learning how developers had to allocate two spots per new residence (I’m sure this has changed since). Fast forward to now, and while my relationship was once to protect the environment and our open spaces, it’s now in dealing with the need for housing and growth.
Q: What do you hope people come to understand about their surroundings as they engage with your work?
A: Let’s start the dialogue with an awareness of what’s going on. I bring them in with the color and happiness. If we take a look around as we walk or drive, without distraction, we see things through a different lens and maybe we’ll be open to discussions about the big picture.
What I love about Carlsbad …
It’s absolutely gorgeous where I live! I’m only 3 miles from the coast, so I get sunny skies without too much heat.
Q: How did you get started as a visual artist?
A: It really wasn’t until my friend, Pepper Prieto, convinced me to go back to college at 19. Seeing some of my random, tiny surf paintings, she encouraged me to become an artist. I majored in graphic design at San Diego State University but was terrible at it. The good news was that the major was so popular that they offered us painting classes to replace the ones we couldn’t get into. I fell in love with figurative work and was inspired heavily by the late artist and professor Janet Cooling. After leaving school, I went into advertising sales.
Q: How would you describe your point of view as an artist?
A: People would kill me for this, but I don’t think art is sacred. It’s there to convey a message. Imagine going shopping and feeling the texture of the fabric before you buy it. I get that same feeling from a painting. I’m allowed to touch my own work, but I wish the viewer could do it, as well. The goal is to get a viewer to become more of a participant in the piece, resulting in more of a memory of the experience.
Q: You’ve also mentioned that you once painted landscapes as backdrops before your focus on the local land created a passion for learning more about the land itself and the memories attached to it. Where did you grow up in California? What have you learned about that land and what kinds of memories are attached to that land, for you?
A: I grew up in Southern California, with a two-year stint in Australia and one year in Hawaii before the age of 19. Since then, I’ve called Pacific Beach, La Jolla, downtown San Diego and Carlsbad home. New buildings pop up as old memories are torn down. Five years ago, I focused on a figure to create a story and I chose to include some of the open spaces right off of El Camino Real in the backdrop. It is only a matter of time until that land will be gone, though. My personal memories of time spent within the beach community will inevitably change to accommodate population growth. If I play the “I remember” game, I could say, “Remember when the road didn’t go all the way through on Leucadia Boulevard?” or “Remember when the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch stretched for miles along Interstate 5?” or “Remember when the Carlsbad Raceway was along McClellan-Palomar Airport?” These places were once more open spaces but made room for us.
Q: How have those memories and experiences influenced you as an artist?
A: When painting landscapes, everybody seems to have a memory attached to it. It makes me think of how my issues with development are valid, but pale in comparison to how the history of development has affected communities like southeastern San Diego. It makes me want to investigate San Diego as a whole and not just North County.
Q: What has your work as an artist taught you about yourself?
A: That art can be an educational tool. I have learned so much more through reading about climate change and development, looking at both the pros and cons of building and how both sides have valid arguments, and with community knowledge and input we can come to a better solution.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: “Life is too short to do business with a——-.” I am lucky to have the luxury of working with some of the best clients who have become friends. When you have a positive connection, that relationship tends to grow and, personally, many good things have come from those relationships.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I applied to graduate in 1987 but was one credit short (no thanks to the bars in Pacific Beach), so I went back and got my degree in multimedia art at SDSU in 2016.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: With COVID-19, I am happy being a homebody, but I’d make a great tour guide. I would suggest a morning hike at Torrey Pines or the Seven Bridges Hike; feta grilled cheese for lunch from Mimmo’s in Little Italy, or the best tortillas at Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan; and catching the sunset at South Ponto beach in Encinitas, or at the Oceanside pier.