Atlas of Imagination

by Laura Staugaitis

Aerial views of snowy expanses, colorful beaches, and geological formations… or macro impressions of crystals, seashells, and bodily tissues? No matter how you see it, Kristi Kohut’s abstract Symphonic Atlas series challenges perception and invites interpretation.

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Each multi-media work in the collection situates colorful, organic lines in frosty fields of white,  meandering off the paper’s edge, suggesting that each Atlas is a snapshot of a larger landscape. Kohut works with a combination of ink and acrylic paint to form each curving, gestural line, interspersing warm and cool tones of varying thickness to create a river of color that cuts diagonally through each linen paper base. Brilliant fuschia, cadmium red, buttery yellow, and deep indigo interplay in an intuitive yet sophisticated dance of color theory. And swaths of specially sized opalescent glitter are carefully layered to create three-dimensional environments that swell and surge, in turn crashing up against and retreating from her colorful linework.

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Symphonic Atlas #14 (16 x 20 inches) sees color leaking out beyond its linear bounds, infusing the upper left corner with deep blush tones that radiate out through the glitter overlay. Whereas in Symphonic Atlas #38 (30 x 60 inches) a more spare scene takes shape, with thin sheer layers creating the illusion of icy waters.

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Each work in the series features a roughly rectangular linen paper base for Kohut’s colorful linework and shimmering glitter. The multi-media creation is then set upon iridescent acrylic to add sturdiness and visual depth, and finally encased in a lucite shadow box, each custom-built for its respective Symphonic Atlas. By floating the artwork—eschewing opaque mats and traditional frames for subtle, transparent support—Kohut emphasizes the abstract, otherworldly character of the series. Each jewel-like viewing box is a portal into a mysterious, curiosity-sparking environment: the topographical atlas of the artist’s imagination.