Art media

Karen Mobley navigates her cancer journey and her art

Sitting across from artist Karen Mobley, slumped on her well-worn futon next to a blazing fire she stoked in her cozy South Hill living room, can be a rewarding experience. She could talk about wildlife, cooking, science, art, or cute neighbor kids. His three cats could jump on you.

She might take you into her basement to show you the dozens of vibrant paintings of wildlife and clouds she has in the works. And she might make a joke about her recent breast cancer surgery.

“I already had all these biopsy holes in my chest when the radiologist at Inland Imaging informed me that they were going to do more biopsies, so I said to the assistant, ‘The next thing you know, they’ll hang me up from the cross like St. Sebastian,” laughed Mobley.

“No one even smiled, but on the next visit the girl told me she had gone home and looked up who San Sebastian was.” Mobley stopped laughing and sighed. “It’s hard to make jokes when the other party doesn’t get your referrals.”

It’s not that she’s trying to educate you, impress you, or even entertain you. But as a 60-year-old woman who was raised by a journalist mother and gamekeeper father embedded in an elk sanctuary in Wyoming, she’s lived in more places, had more jobs, painted more. paintings, write more poetry and hear more jokes. than most people decades older than herself.

She also attended more meetings, volunteered at more galleries, traveled more, and visited more people than the average person. And then there are the losses. His mother, brother and father passed away in painful succession over 15 years ago.

Don’t forget the ex-partner who left, just packed up and moved out, around the same time. He called her to tell her he was leaving her as she sat on Ben Stuckart’s back patio drinking a beer, before he even showed up for a public office.

By the way, Karen Mobley also knows more people than you. And she is not boastful. A former Spokane Arts boss who moved a few years ago recently mailed him a sweatshirt as a joke. Embroidered on the front, the statement: “Spokane Famous”, with the new city flag sewn on it.

Stuckart and his wife Ann recently hosted a fundraiser for Mobley to raise money for the entertainer’s skyrocketing health bills in light of his recent cancer diagnosis. The turnout, despite a growing resurgence of COVID-19 in November, was more than impressive.

Dozens and dozens of artists, patrons, retirees and professionals showed up and socially distanced themselves under heat lamps in the cold winter night to support Mobley. One of Spokane’s best-known living artists who stands up for everyone needed help. So they came.

There are few artistic milestones that have happened in this town without Mobley’s involvement. She was the head of the city’s art department from 1997 to 2012, responsible for bringing public art, murals and sculpture to downtown Spokane and its public spaces. During his tenure, First Fridays came to fruition, as did Terrain and the Visual Arts Tour.

In a painful professional debacle 10 years ago, the city cut Mobley’s entire county and cut his job. But it wasn’t long before Mobley was hired by Spokane Arts, the nonprofit entity that took over the duties of her old department. The new arrangement has allowed Mobley to devote more time to his own art over the past decade.

Fast forward to that first Friday at Barrister Winery, where Mobley teams up with two other great artists, Deb Sheldon and Rosemary Barile, for a show called “Elemental.” The trio has a lot in common. They are all local. They all led interesting lives, full of love and loss. And all three of them created paintings exploring the nature that must be seen.

Mobley’s paintings are awash in vibrant oils, meditations on the elements of water, earth, wind and fire. “I’m still working on the fire element,” Mobley said. “At least this show has a cool group name.” Her art captures the feelings she experiences when looking at nature rather than focusing on depicting the living organism itself.

Different meditations produce different series of paintings, some dynamic and energetic, others more ethereal. For “Elemental” at Barrister, “snow bushes”, “sky-ish” and “floating trees” are three grouped series of paintings that Mobley will present illustrating his abstract interpretations.

“A lot of my artwork comes from experiences I’ve had,” Mobley said. She points to a series of sky blue paintings with green bushy spikes encroaching on all sides on the bright blue expanses. “These floating tree stuff – these are based on hanging out in my backyard when the wind is blowing and watching these huge ponderosa pines come in and out and around.”

Barile’s paintings for the collective exhibition will be encaustic on board. Works will include multimedia art exploring her personal relationship with nature and the role interaction plays in her daily life.

Sheldon’s contributions to the show are acrylic on canvas, focusing on water, air, rocks and earth. She said she reveled in having the freedom to create both realistic pieces and abstract works.

Watching her friend Mobley go through her cancer journey over the past five months has been familiar and sad territory for Sheldon. Sheldon’s sister went through a similar struggle and got through it.

“My sister is now cancer free,” Sheldon said. “Everyone’s medical situation is different, but hopefully it will be the same for (Karen).” Displaying his western and pragmatic attitude, Mobley also has an optimistic outlook. “Actually, I think you’ll be fine,” she said softly.

Always humorous, Mobley’s Facebook posts are a study in how to explain to friends the seriousness of what’s going on with her cancer treatment while bringing a smile. She calls herself “Pinky the laboratory mouse”, in reference to all the tests she is subjected to. Ten days after his cancer surgery, “Pinky” reported spotting squirrels mating in his backyard.

“It takes about 38 days for squirrel sperm to grow into a little naked kitten (yes, that’s what they’re called), and in the same summer the same mother can give birth to another nest full,” Pinky wrote.

“My oncology will start around the same time squirrels are born. If you’re expecting squirrel kittens, it’s a short wait. If (you) think about how quickly it takes to get a whole squirrel out of a few cells, cancer seems scarier. See how I did this? I took a miracle of life and just reminded you how fast some cancers grow.

“The last two days have been a little better,” the post continued. “I went to get some things and to the bank. I went for two walks – one in Liberty Park, one in the small park in Perry District.

“And I think going back to the project I did a few years ago where I tried to visit every park in Spokane for a summer and walk all the trails and do the circles and look at all the vantage points. river view. I’m not going alone yet. Mobley will likely have plenty of company to roam around when she’s ready.