Although some clients purchase Hallam’s pieces as individual artwork, calling Hallam an artist isn’t quite right. “I consider myself an artisan, not an artist,” she says. “My artistic skills are a craft, which I apply to practically any surface.” Hallam’s wall treatments are a melding of homespun color and texture-—the colors mixed by hand and plasters textured with such things as crushed pecans and sand. “It’s very organic, nature’s imprint,” says Hallam.
Hallam’s work is best appreciated when it covers an entire wall, such as Babe in Oyster, a 36-inch by 48-inch wrapped canvas in shades of Hydrangea blue that hangs in her dining room. First she treated the canvas with a texture coat and skip-troweled it with an antiquity plaster. The image itself was painted in oils; the scroll work (“cartouche”) was applied in burnt umber and teal. Over the baby in the oyster hovers a cherub, blessing the sleeping child and the bounty of food supporting the shell: lobster, oysters, melons, fish. As a backdrop, Hallam applied a custom finish to the wall of Hydrangea blue tones, painting the grooves in the paneling a subtle matte turquoise. She then treated the entire room with a final patina of white wash.
Hallam’s journey to professional artwork is an artist’s dream. She started painting 10 years ago with a kiddy brush and poster board and took one of her first pieces to a frame shop. Another customer saw it and offered Hallam $750. “One thing led to another,” she says. Soon she was painting pet portraits and moved to botanicals with an 1800s antique patina. She still paints and sells the botanicals in limited edition prints.
Hallam’s cottage studio, shaded by a massive oak, is filled with her tools—pots of brushes, shelves of paints, and a magnifying headset among them—and finished work.
On one easel is a “Cape Cod grotesque,” an art style that Hallam developed. “Grotesque” refers to an extravagant style of decorative art in Ancient Roman times, which was rediscovered and eventually copied throughout Europe at the end of the 15th century.
Hallam learned grotesque, which renders objects in fantastical form, through intricate study, by careful practice in workshops and classes, including a stint with her mentor, Carolina d’ Ayala Valva, an artisan in Rome. Four years spent traveling through Europe with her parents as a child, where Hallam saw the grotesque style in historic structures, also inspired her. From her roots in grotesque, Hallam developed her own style, “Cape Cod grotesque.”
Hallam’s pieces have the same lush feeling as the original grotesque, but with injections of classic Cape Cod. One piece, “Riding the Wave,” shows two colorful fish, back to back, riding the crest of a wave, framed with images of jewels, flowers, and cherubs. The piece is at once lavish and light, which pleases Hallam and, some might say, reflects her own inner spirit. She hopes viewers see her work for its careful execution, but also for its “whimsy, color, and joy.” It is no accident that Cape Cod is the inspiration for so much of the emotive quality of her work. As Hallam says, “I’m braced in Cape Cod. I love being home.”Kathy Hallam’s work may be seen by appointment; for more information, call (774) 269-2535 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.