Artist Kate Joiner with one of the paintings she hopes...

Artist Kate Joiner with one of the paintings she hopes will inspire discussion about nature and development. Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS/Eduardo Contreras

Artist Kate Joiner spends a lot of time paying attention to her surroundings. Sure, what she sees inspires her creativity and what she chooses to paint, but it also informs her sensibilities about the environment, conservation and development. In her latest solo show — "The Land We Love" at a community center in Carlsbad, California — she used more than two dozen new pieces to focus on the landscapes in the San Diego area.

"By pairing these landscapes with a connection to land development, I found I could use my art as a vehicle to engage local residents to take notice of what is changing around them," says Joiner. "In the long run, development and climate change go hand in hand, and to learn about one, you might consider how it affects the other."

Joiner, 58, owns Sunny Creek Studios and lives in Carlsbad with her partner, Peter Avila, and their son, Noe.  The award-winning artist took some time to talk about how her environmentalism intersects with her artistic point of view, and her hope that her bright and cheerful artwork can be used to further dialogue and solutions around land development and conservation.

Q: What do you want to say through your pieces?

A: Take a drive along U.S. Route 101, and you see sheer beauty. What is often overlooked is the development, which often goes unnoticed until it's too late. By introducing pieces of my work that viewers are familiar with, using vibrant colors to bring happiness, I juxtapose them with an alternative view. At what point in our lives do we address that there will always be changes and look at the positive and negative effects of development, and whether we have to choose sides?


Q: What do you hope people come to understand about their surroundings as they engage with your work?

A: Let's start the dialogue with an awareness of what's going on. I bring them in with the color and happiness. If we take a look around as we walk or drive, without distraction, we see things through a different lens and maybe we'll be open to discussions about the big picture.

Q: How did you get started as a visual artist?

A: It really wasn't until my friend, Pepper Prieto, convinced me to go back to college at 19. Seeing some of my random, tiny surf paintings, she encouraged me to become an artist. I majored in graphic design at San Diego State University but was terrible at it. The good news was that the major was so popular that they offered us painting classes to replace the ones we couldn't get into. I fell in love with figurative work and was inspired heavily by the late artist and professor Janet Cooling. After leaving school, I went into advertising sales.

Q: How would you describe your point of view as an artist?

A: People would kill me for this, but I don't think art is sacred. It's there to convey a message. Imagine going shopping and feeling the texture of the fabric before you buy it. I get that same feeling from a painting. I'm allowed to touch my own work, but I wish the viewer could do it, as well. The goal is to get a viewer to become more of a participant in the piece, resulting in more of a memory of the experience.

Q: What has your work as an artist taught you?

A: That art can be an educational tool. I have learned so much more through reading about climate change and development, looking at both the pros and cons. With community knowledge and input we can come to a better solution.