Boulder-based mixed-media artist Kristen Abbott creates captivating, abstract works that reflect her inner life (and maybe yours, too). She reveals here how she pursues beauty and meaning through her work—and what she hopes you’ll find when you look at it.

5280 Home: Your work is almost sculptural in its appearance. Tell us about your process.
Kristen Abbott: I love working large-scale because there’s so much room on a large canvas or wood panel to experiment. I bounce around between acrylics and oils, mostly, and use industrial tools like paint rollers, trowels, brooms, and kitchen utensils. I want the materials to feel organic, and I want the painting to have this rich surface history.

How has your work evolved over time?
Texture has always been important to me. I want you to want to touch my art. [When I began painting], I used more patterns and grids, and my work was less loose and intuitive than it is now. My color palette changes depending on the season of life I’m in and on what I’m trying to communicate through my art.

“A Language All Her Own” by Kristen Abbott. Photo by Mber Creative

Your last major body of work—The Shattering/The Becoming—included poetry you wrote.
Sharing some of the words alongside the visual work—that was cathartic for me. That whole body of work came about through some spiritual direction I was getting: I was thinking about the deepest and truest parts of us—the parts that sometimes get covered by layers of armor we put on to protect ourselves [emotionally and spiritually]—and I visualized these soft, warm flesh tones. I incorporated sheer fabrics that partially obscure parts of the paintings, and shattered plaster, which represents the kind of shattering that brings you back to the truest part of yourself, the person you were made to be.

What are you working on now?
I’m feeling a shift happening in my life and my work. I’m surrounded by more nature here in Boulder and am enjoying a slower pace of life, and I’m seeing some greens show back up in my work, which is probably inspired by nature and a feeling of rest and belonging after a tumultuous time. The first piece I created in this new shift is called “A Language All Her Own.”

What do you hope we find in your work?
Our lives can feel so loud that I want my work to feel like a small pause, a deep breath; not one more thing adding to the noise, but a reminder to slow down and notice the quieter moments. Beauty may very well be dazzling, but it also can be quiet—just a hint of what is to come.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home October/November 2021.
Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.