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Jazz in the Abstract: Visiting Artist Talks about her Career

Kathy KosinsCan you hear color? Can you see music? For critically and nationally acclaimed jazz vocalist Kathy Kosins, it comes naturally. “I paint the sounds that I hear,” says Kosins.

On Tuesday, December 15 in the Wilson Fine Arts Center, Kosins presented a lecture about “Life in the Arts.”

“I teach a course about how to make a living in the arts,” said Kosins. “Content comes from my own experience as a vocal artist—and now as a visual artists.”

Kosins’ visit to Ohio Northern was organized by Dr. David Kosmyna, an assistant professor of music. Kosins conducted master classes for music students and she was the featured vocalist during the ONU jazz band concert held in Presser Hall.

Kosins’ paintings are held in private collections throughout the United States.

“Strains from Miles Davis’ trumpet, Charlie Parkers’ saxophone and Bud Powells’ piano translate into color and texture,” explains Kosins, who is also a composer. “For me, painting is simply an extension of the music I love to listen to and perform.”

Likewise, Kosins’ songs are imbued with the hues she envisions. “When I perform, if I blow a scat solo or improvise on a melody, I ‘see’ grades of color in those notes, and that informs the texture of my phrasing.”

Kosins has been singing and writing for more than 30 years. She has been painting in the abstract since the late 1980s, around the time she began composing what would become her first CD release, “All in a Dream’s Work,” a tribute to Miles Davis’ 1950s and early 1960s productions.

“While listening to Davis or other period bop artists, one can see whatever their imagination will let them. I happen to see their notes as color, form and texture.”

Similar to jazz musicians playing solos, “I use as much depth and layering as possible. It’s about nuances and dynamics.”

Kosins says that she has taken many painting classes, but also says her painting is total improvisation.

“I never have an idea or color scheme in mind when I pick up a brush. I paint strictly from my intuition,” she says, adding that the hardest part is acknowledging when a piece is done. “It was no different with the old jazz masters. They could play endless solos all night, using the same form.”

Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second edition of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2009-10 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: Kathy Kosins describes her latest art work during a lecture in the department of art & design.