Kate Klingbeil: Painting the Recovery of the Feminine / by Sam Abelow

Kate Klingbeil shows recent works at Monya Rowe Gallery, as well as at a studio visit:

The dream contained in Klingbeil’s diary of the unconscious carries out a circumambulation around the revitalizing mother archetype — as great goddess. This image is the way to the feminine self — a mystery we hurt to have forgotten and is all that we don’t understand.

Detail, photographed at Kate Klingbeil studio.

Detail, photographed at Kate Klingbeil studio.

I first saw Kate Klingbeil’s work, as it jutted and sloshed off canvas edge, at the standout SEED show, (presented by Kasmin Gallery) in 2018. Klingbeil’s total body of work (as with that group show) represents the most important inquiry that can happen in art cultural production today: the exaltation of the feminine, as nuanced archetypal image, and as a set of values. The recent works shown at Monya Rowe Gallery display a unique combination of artistic skill — style, paint handling — and the willingness to open the deep psyche through imaginative work.

Kate Klingbeil, “Fistful of Sand,” 2019, photographed, as installed at Monya Rowe Gallery. 48 x 40 x 3 inches (approx.). Acrylic, vinyl, oil stick, chalk pastel, watercolor, metal chain, epoxy, black sand, pigment and pumice.

Kate Klingbeil, “Fistful of Sand,” 2019, photographed, as installed at Monya Rowe Gallery. 48 x 40 x 3 inches (approx.). Acrylic, vinyl, oil stick, chalk pastel, watercolor, metal chain, epoxy, black sand, pigment and pumice.

See works by Klingbeil: On the Inside, Monya Rowe Gallery, 224 West 30th St. Through July 19, 2019.

Follow @k8klingbeil on Instagram


Inside the studio of Kate Klingbeil.

Inside the studio of Kate Klingbeil.

A cursive description of what is meant by the archetypal feminine, or mother must point to the unconscious situation in all people, as to where the powerful influence of the personal mother is merely an overlay on the deeply primordial — and thus biological experience —of our entire species: the mother is progenitor, nurturer and taker of life. The influence of this “mother” is so vast, that what can be psychologically described as “feminine” is synonymous in the unconscious with the values of earth as natural environment, connection to body, relationship and community, as well as mysteries of religion and mysticism.

The development of patriarchal civilization has depended on and continued to instill an ignorance of this “feminine.” This cultural influence on the psyche of individuals throughout our society accounts for many of the widespread conflicts faced today: the value of nature versus commerce, living versus working, inclusivity versus individualism, the desires of the body to live its natural life versus the constructs and poisonous habits we maintain, and, finally, the wild, perverse, vital and unrestrained creativity that lays dormant, even resented in a psyche that favors a “scientific,” “rational” and “practical” world view.

“An archetype is [...] among the highest values of the human psyche; they have peopled the heavens of all races from time immemorial. To discard them as valueless would be a distinct loss. Our task is not, therefore, to deny the archetype, but to dissolve the projections, in order to restore their contents to the individual who has involuntarily lost them by projecting them outside himself.”

C.G. Jung, par. 160, Vol. 9 Collected Works

Attention to this psychological situation has great import in modern political and cultural movements, because individuals in the present society face a great woundedness and loss in the values connected to a realized feminine. The pain of this cultural disregard, has personalistic consequences which are “passed down” through our mothers, inflicted on our sisters, but also function as an internal suffering of the soul and body, which, whether resulting in obvious neurosis, or not, is present in all of us to some degree or another.

A general suffering of the populace, in which mystery is gone, “rationality” prevails, “individuals” stand for themselves and must compete for their lot, all become political and cultural problems. A description of “general disfunction” is mere speculation, which becomes observable fact in the individual personalities and their behavior patterns. It is through the activity of daily life that our collective future is determined; it is in the sum of our collective attitudes and behaviors that the regeneration, restoration, reclamation of the feminine may occur.

A rather large and powerful canvas, photographed in Kate Klingbeil’s studio.

A rather large and powerful canvas, photographed in Kate Klingbeil’s studio.


Kate Klingbeil portrays her personal process of feminine recovery. Klingbeil’s vocation as an artist places the products of her imaginative unconscious in the public domain, as material for our communal conversation. Additionally, her abilities with paint and personal style offer another layer of enjoyability.

Klingbeil’s paintings, since her archive has begun, and into the most recent exhibition at Monya Rowe Gallery render wonderful landscapes of rolling bosoms and pagan figurines, which freely move in their nakedness. There are showers, waterfalls, beds of flowers, sometimes animals, fairies, daemons, and so forth. Always painted with intoxicated frivolity, she has consistently found emotionally rich and imaginative nuances of this same theme.

The dream contained in this diary of the unconscious carries out a circumambulation around the mother archetype. Attention to this process, and the imagery springing from it, is the way to realization of the feminine self — a vitally free personality.

In Kingbeil's archive we find what a Jungian sees as the natural manifestations of the unconscious psyche when it is given imaginative attention. Across her works, we can observe the nuanced patterns (clusters of motifs), as well as the overall narrative progression (the story that psyche is telling). 

The initial work began with many depictions of heterosexual intercourse, as well as narcissistic images of masturbation and bathing in flower beds. In the psychology of personality transformation, we know that narcissism is always the first stage, as an entry point to the mystery.

The following year, images of washing appeared, as well as the introduction of variously scaled figures, which populate a scene in which nature is presented as an abstracted fountain that offers an unending, godly elixir — a source of healing vitalization. 


The original narcissism —necessary to begin the descent further into the feminine self —leads into a new theme, almost a new world. Here, the eternal party, celebration still takes place, but now there is one oversized, giant-scaled figure, a mother goddess that is central, while other figures surround her in the vitalization.

These most recent paintings, of which I saw in her studio, have emphasized the woman as landscape, which rolls with the earthy flesh of the mother; her breasts and tummy folding over the hills, sometimes flowing with life-giving water.

Increasingly, references to animals and vegetation also become core symbols. Again, the images, which contain symbolic potencies, slurry around the mother, as the artist follows her psyche deeper into the imaginative play which portrays ancient mysteries of the feminine.


The art represents the continued and labored search for a whole self, a healed self, in which sexuality and body are the core wounds as well as source of movement, libido, that the artist is able to communicate and connect with.

I fear that many individuals will be required to dialogue with such mysteries, in whatever ways they can — intellectually, imaginatively, through group and play therapy, and probably psychedelic therapy for that matter. I can also see social play and experimentation as a pathway to opening the wounded feminine into increasing feltness and fullness. It will be in those times that we truly know what it means to understand the feminine, and for there to be a moment in time which renders a world of inclusion, love and true health.