Gentle Old Meets Dynamic New in the work of Bainbridge artist, Kathe Fraga

Like so many of us, I have really missed the First Friday Art Walks during these past few months, not just writing about the featured artists, but also being able to get out and about to enjoy the exhibits first hand. When Jeffrey Moose, along with Andy Bergh, and a few others kept it alive with their “Virtual First Friday” events on Facebook, I happily jumped into the fray to share and promote the events. It was the June Virtual First Friday that led me to Kathe Fraga and her current exhibit at Roby King Gallery, which I shared in the comments on my last article, but of course, it couldn’t end there, I wanted to know more about Kathe and her work.

Growing up in a Naval family, Kathe spent her formative years living on both coasts of the U.S., South America and Europe, spending anywhere from six months to five years in any given locale. Constantly moving from one place to another is often difficult, especially for a youngster, however, Kathe embraced the changes, finding excitement in a new home, a new school and new friends. The exposure to different cultures, languages, foods and lifestyles has strongly influenced her art work, allowing her to share those influences with others. She continued her wandering spirit, studying abroad at the United States International University Sussex, England, the Université de Grenoble, France, and the University of Washington, Seattle, where she acquired her Bachelor of Arts.

Like most artists, she was a creative child; drawing, painting and writing, and often wrote and illustrated her own stories, dreaming of a career as a children’s book author. However, like most of us, what we dream of in childhood is usually just a reflection of who we become in adulthood, and Kathe instead became a copywriter, working at various ad agencies in Los Angeles, Hawaii and Seattle. When she finally settled down, she and her husband, Jeff, purchased a 1904 Craftsman in Beaux Arts Village on the eastern shore of Lake Washington, where they lived for ten years. During those years they often visited Bainbridge Island for the July Fourth celebration, and like most of us, fell in love with the Island and our community and moved here—that was twenty years ago, and they haven’t looked back since.

As Kathe and Jeff raised their family, she began working on art projects with her children, as well as volunteering in their school to assist with art instruction, heading up classroom art projects for auctions and fundraisers, and decorating the classrooms for various holidays. It was then that Kathe rediscovered her love of painting and creating. She and Jeff opened Gallery Fraga on Winslow Way, which they ran for six years. Kathe’s work is inspired by the old and new, infused with bold colors and a gentle love of nature.

“My nature narrative paintings are inspired by the romance of vintage Chinoiserie, layered with pattern, botanicals, color and hidden motifs. We live in a 110-year-old Bainbridge Island home built with barnacled beach rock and weathered grey shingles. The old fir floorboards of our home, milled from the surrounding trees, remind me on a daily basis of the love and gentle patina of time—the sound and scent of the forest. With their decay and rebirth, they send their message to my art as I explore how the fresh beauty of the “new” evolves, over time, into something far more interesting and dramatic. Worn surfaces and distressed textures combine to create a sense of something soft and lovely and familiar; but yet, I feel the need to add a bold swath of color to add the modern and unexpected. It’s a resting place for the eye, a welcome peaceful voice as something reinvented emerges: gentle old meets dynamic new.”

Currently, her work is on exhibit at Roby King Gallery on Winslow Way until the end of June, however, the gallery also represents her work year-long. You can also view her pieces at Flowering Around, located on Winslow Way. In addition, Kathe collaborated with Fletcher Bay Winery to create an original painting, “Unforgettable You”, which is featured as label art for the winery’s red wine, “Tara Rouge”.

Kathe’s work has been featured in galleries across the country, as well as a three-month exhibition at our very own Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA), and in many magazines around the world. Her work is also part of the collections at Swedish Hospital, Island Hospital, and Our Lady of the Lakes Hospital (Baton Rouge), as well as displays in several doctors’ offices. She’s collaborated with “Cle De Peau”, a Japanese cosmetic company to create a collection of original paintings for their limited-edition holiday collection, titled “Nuit De Chine”, and her work has been represented on several television productions, most recently, The Kominsky Method and Grace and Frankie.

In addition to her paintings, Kathe produces a line of greeting cards, luxury silk and linen pillows, and silk scarves. To view her paintings, click here. For her collection of cards and textiles, click here.


*Images provided by Kathe Fraga

Scroll to Top