Kathleen Jacobs is an American artist recognized for her lyrical yet minimal canvases that engage both with the natural world and late 20th century minimalism. Her work has been exhibited extensively in galleries in Aspen, New York, Vienna and Brussels.


When Jacobs began painting outdoors—first in the forests of Colorado, and later in the woods of Massachusetts—she decided to use tree bark as the surface on which to begin her lines and marks. Working with raw linen or canvas, Jacobs wraps and re-wraps the material on multiple tree trunks, subjecting the pieces to various gessoes and rubs, and leaves them to absorb the influences of weather patterns and the evolution of the trees themselves. The artist leaves these paintings outdoors for as long as three years to weather and mature, creating a unique surface. In the final phase, she moves the aged paintings back into her Great Barrington studio, painting and reworking the marks begun by her and taken up by her environment. The resulting paintings are complexly textured and abstract.


Born and raised in Aspen, Colorado and raised on a working ranch,  Jacobs attended Pine Manor College in Boston before relocating to Milan in 1980 to study graphic design at La Scuola Politecnica di Design (SPD). The program’s rigorous focus on problem solving later influenced Jacobs’ artistic approach through her penchant for aesthetic analysis and continuous refinement of technique. Subsequently, she moved to Beijing for several years where she studied with esteemed Chinese artist Huang Yongyu and continued to develop her practice through calligraphy, encaustic painting, ceramics and welding. In 1988, she earned a diploma from the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Yale Language Institute for Mandarin Chinese.


In 1988, Jacobs initiated a life-long interest in the tree form through traditional ink-based landscape drawings and paintings and after returning to the United States a year later, between 1989 and 1999, the tree would dominate Jacobs’ artistic vision and practice. Vertically wrapping eighteen aspen trees in a grove near Conundrum Creek in Colorado’s White River National Forest as a memorial to the “sudden aspen decline,” Jacobs rubbed the painted linen or cotton duck canvases using an oil stick to capture the tree bark’s unique grain and contour lines. She later returned over the course of several days or weeks to rub the surfaces, thereby creating layer after layer of markings to create a tangible and visceral reminder of time’s passing.


Steeped in the ecology of her native home, Jacobs creates lyrical yet minimal canvases and sculpture that engage with the natural world, as well as late 20th century minimalism. Observing her practice, she says, “I’ve spent many years outside painting. After some time, I realized that I should use what was there (physically) to make the work… It was an interesting experience, collaborating with trees, weather, and time to paint these images. I allowed the surface to speak for itself.”


Recent exhibitions include Selections, Hunter Dunbar Projects, New York, NY (2022); Kathleen Jacobs / キャスリーン·ジェイコブス展, Fergus McCaffrey, Tokyo (2022); Ninth Street and Beyond: 70 Years of Women in Abstraction, Hunter Dunbar Projects, New York, NY (2022); SOARS, Heather Gaudio Gallery, New Canaan, CT (2021); ECHOS, TurnPark Art Space, West Stockbridge, MA (2019); Kathleen Jacobs, ARS Gallery, Honolulu, HI (2019); In Light of Shade, Fergus McCaffrey, New York, NY (2019); AVION, The Bonnier Gallery, Miami, FL (2019); Under The Night Sky, Friedman Benda, New York, NY (2018); An Eccentric View, Fernando Mignoni, New York, NY (2018); DRĒMS, Fergus McCaffrey, New York, NY (2018); Kathleen Jacobs, ARS Gallery, Honolulu, HI (2018); Kathleen Jacobs, The Lab, Bellevue, WA (2017); Gatherings, Fergus McCaffrey Fine Art (2015); Love Story: Anne & Wolfgang Titze Collection, Belvedere Museum, Vienna, Austria (2014). 


Jacobs currently lives and works between New York, NY and Great Barrington, MA.