Best Bets: Rehoboth Beach artist Klabe pours it on

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Rehoboth Beach artist Kim Klabe uses red wine and dark beer for her pieces she calls “pours,” such as this one entitled “How Did You Sleep?’ She was recently given a Delaware Division of the Arts Established Professional Award and $6,000 for her work.

Persistence has paid off for Rehoboth Beach artist Kim Klabe.

After 15 years of trying, she was recognized recently by the Delaware Division of the Arts with a fellowship award.

Twenty-five Delaware artists were lauded by the division for the high quality of their artwork. Work samples from 121 Delaware choreographers, composers, musicians, writers, folk and visual artists were reviewed by out-of-state arts professionals, considering demonstrated creativity and skill in their art form. The 25 who were selected this year come from up and down the state.

“Each year when I would get my annual rejection notice, the jury would leave comments that will say they liked this or didn’t like this. You might want to do this. And I always read those and learned from them. It’s constructive criticism. And so this year I applied again because I am persistent, if nothing else. And yeah, so I got it,” she said.

“I actually got teary, really, when I saw it. I was just passing the time waiting for an appointment and I was just scrolling through my phone and I saw that email and was trying to make it bigger because I feel like this can’t be. I was so used to being rejected that when it comes through, it’s kind of like ‘That can’t possibly be happening.’”

Awards are given in three categories: $10,000 for the Masters Award, $6,000 for the Established Professional Award, and $3,000 for the Emerging Professional Award. Ms. Klabe was given an Established Professional Award.

Additionally, the work of the Fellows will be featured in a group exhibition, “Award Winners XXI” at the Biggs Museum in Dover tentatively set for June 4-July 25.

An accomplished oil and watercolor painter, she switched to a new medium a couple of years ago — wine and beer — creating spontaneous artwork she calls “pours.”

She pours wine or dark beer onto thick watercolor paper and manipulates the paper to move the liquid. After the liquid dries, Ms. Klabe finds shapes in the dried stain like one might identify shapes in the clouds. She then defines those shapes and completes the images with markers and colored pencils.

“It started because after being an oil painter for 15 or 20 years, and before that I was a watercolor painter., when you’re that kind of a painter, I was a representational painter, which means I was painting what I saw. And that can be really a cumbersome thing because you’re looking to be representational. So there’s a lot of pressure to make things look as they are,” she said.

Kim Klabe

“When you are an abstract impressionist, anything like that, you can be a lot looser. And there are a lot of painters out there. So after doing shows of all different kinds for many years, I just found that I was getting kind of stale and I wasn’t using my creativity. I wasn’t using my imagination. I was basically just painting what I saw and was surrounded by a lot of amazingly talented painters that you basically have to be better than if you want to succeed. And I was just losing my spark.”

She explains that around the time of the last presidential election she was feeling a lot of tension and anxiety. She saw a set of markers in a store with which she fell in love and her husband bought them for her.

“I was sitting at the kitchen table. The news was on and it was just pummeling me with just stress and tension. And so, I was drinking a glass of wine and I just thought, ‘You know, I’m going to just play,’” she said.

The thickness of the paper that she uses, she explains, is like cardboard and is very textured.

“So if you can imagine like a real dark red wine and what that would look like on a piece of white paper. This is the way my brain works anyway. So I just started to pour it on the paper and swirled it around, let it dry and then when it was dry, I was just looking at it. I love to doodle, I love to draw. And so I just started turning the shapes of the dry wine into things sitting at the kitchen table. This was not a plan. This was just play,” she said.

That’s when those new set of markers came in handy.

“It was really fun. The time passed so quickly. My imagination was in play. It was like on fire in my head and it was it was like therapy. I felt better. It felt like a real release. I felt like the tension had drained out of me while I was working on that,” she said.

Along with the surprise of how freeing the process felt came the surprise of the reaction they received.

“I thought, ‘I’m just going to put these on Facebook because I think my friends would get a kick out of this.’ I had done three and I posted all three of them and all three of them sold just like that. I thought, ‘Holy crap. I’ve got an easel up in my studio. oil paints everywhere, brushes. I haven’t sold three oil paintings like that in a long time like that.’ So I cleared everything out of my studio and got a huge drawing table and started buying professional-level markers and all the things that I needed to do these pores.”

She also quickly added dark beer as a medium.

This “Big Lebowski”-inspired piece is entitled “The Dude Abides.”

“It’s got to be something like Guinness — or Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout is a great one because it’s really, really dark brown. It’s got to be something like that because if it’s too light like white wine or Miller Lite, something like that, it’s not going to show up on the white watercolor paper,” she said.

These flights of fancy have proved very popular with many sold as soon as they are created. She has also had a few shows and has a number of her pieces displayed at Gallery 50 on Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth Beach.

She also recently had a show at Wilmington’s Mezzanine Gallery, that was exhibited virtually due to the pandemic entitled “Pours: Feelings of an Almost Human Nature.”

This show featured pours that were inspired by music that has meant something to Ms. Klabe over the years. Her musical inspirations range from her first two albums bought (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John and “Young Americans” by David Bowie) to the music that guided her through impactful times in her life. She named the pours to reflect either the title of a song or album or selected lyrics. Artwork was also inspired by music from The Police, Counting Crows, and Pink Floyd.

Although most of the time she says the wine or the beer artistically tells her what it wants to be, there are times when she has something in mind that she wants to create, such as one recently made about last week’s Capitol riot.

“That was one that I felt like I needed to do. That was just one of those things I needed to get out of me and so I looked at a couple of the pours and I’m just looking for anything that looks it could work for a distorted Capitol and one of them did. So I just started with the Capitol and then I was bombarded, as we all were, with photos of the day on the news. So I just started finding the other folks who were in the news in that pour and I thought was done,” she said.

“Then I showed it to my husband and I said ‘Should I put something up here at the top?’ and he said I probably should. So the last thing I did, which I think is what made the pour, is that I put Trump’s eyes at the top. It just made it that more complete and that one was sold by that night.”

Ms. Klabe says he has been an artist as far back as she can remember. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a major in painting and the Antonelli Institute of Art and Photography.

Along with the pours being her most profitable medium, she says it’s also the most enjoyable.

This wine pour by Kim Klabe is titled “The Nutcracker.” More of her work can be viewed at KimKlabe.com.

“It’s different. It’s fun. It’s unusual. I think people respond to it for a couple of reasons. One, the wine and beer is fascinating to people. The process is fascinating. And I think because when you look at these, they’re really organic and loose and kind of crazy and whimsical and fantastical. And so I think people just connect with them. I’m sure it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But I do think that generally, people have a response to them, whether it’s positive or negative. And fortunately for me, it’s usually positive,” she said.

To see more of her work, visit KimKlabe.com.

Other Fellows

Jennifer Margaret Barker of Newark was awarded this year’s Master’s Fellowship in Music: Composition.

Described as “a composer of profound sensibility” Ms. Barker has received performances of her compositions on six continents. Her compositions have been performed by orchestras such as the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony; chamber and choral ensembles such as Orchestra 2001, Network for New Music, Vocal de Cámara Platense and Bearsden Choir.

Other downstate winners of the Established Professional Awards are: Howard Eberle of Lewes, Visual Arts: Painting; Jack Knight of Long Neck, Visual Arts: Sculpture; Jame McCray of Smyrna, Dance: Choreography; and Terry Miller of Milton, Literature: Creative Nonfiction.

Downstate Emerging Professional Award winners are: Shari Dierkes of Clayton, Visual Arts: Crafts: Siobhan Duggan of Lewes, Visual Arts: Works on Paper; Carrie Sz. Keane of Milton, Literature: Creative Nonfiction; Jack Mackey of Rehoboth Beach, Literature: Poetry; and Theresa Taylor of Dover, Folk Art: Visual Arts.

The next deadline for Individual Artist Fellowship applications will be Monday, Aug. 2 by 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the Delaware Division of the Arts, visit arts.delaware.gov or call 302-577-8278.

On the air

As we told you last week, the Caesar Rodney High School Stage Crew and Thespians are taking to the air and reliving the Golden Age of Radio as they “A Sherlock Holmes Radio Mystery” online today at 7 p.m.

The recorded audio-only presentation tells the story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth as he enlists the help of his doctor friend Watson to reclaim incriminating photographic evidence of a king’s past relationship.

Holmes finds himself faced with a puzzle he cannot solve — his own feelings for the very woman he’s investigating, Irene Adler. He admires her for her wit and cunning, but do his feelings run deeper even as he’s hired by the king to retrieve the photo from her possession?

The show is an adaptation of Doyle’s short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

For tickets and information on how to listen to the Sherlock Holmes program, visit https://www.onthestage.com/show/caesar-rodney-high-school/a-sherlock-holmes-radio-mystery-98407.

Now Showing

New in theaters this weekend is Liam Neeson in the thriller “The Marksman.”

To share news of your entertainment event, venue or group, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

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