Arising star in modern art, Catherine Freshley has painted hundreds of Oklahoma landscapes, and even after moving, continues to create from her reference photos of the state. In doing so, Freshley tells rich, visual stories of Oklahoma’s terra firma, and gives a voice to the state’s wide-open prairie skies. It’s no surprise that her work hangs in homes all over the Sooner State.
Freshley was first enamored by Oklahoma’s flat and vast lands – and just how big the sky was – when she moved here with her husband in 2014 while he was serving in the Air Force. The couple stayed until 2018.
“In Oklahoma, you so often are treated to spectacular skies, and they vary so much more than the land,” she says. “I was transfixed by the sky. To me, the sky and the light on the land are so beautiful that I can’t handle the idea of it going away and me forgetting the scene. I want to save it, so I paint it.”
The daughter of a landscape architect and an artist, Freshley recalls that she “grew up in a creative home with access to craft and art supplies from a very young age. I started with drawing, and spent a lot of time drawing in elementary and middle school, both in my free time and for school projects. I started painting with acrylics in high school.”
After getting degrees in economics and English, Freshley started a career in the advertising world while painting on the side. Her focus on landscapes began in 2011, and in 2016, she walked away from her career to fully pursue her passion.
“I displayed my work at STASH in Norman, where I met Farooq Karim of REES [architecture firm], who has specified my work for a number of projects, including Stillwater Cancer Center and ReMERGE. Most of my other corporate clients saw my work at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts, and bought at the event.”
Prominent Oklahoma collections now include Freshley’s paintings.
“The Thunder commissioned a huge painting to hang in Chesapeake Arena, and Kimray commissioned a large painting to add to their Oklahoma Collection,” Freshley says. “I worked with designer Rachel Shingleton on pieces for Carlton Landing’s Residence Club, and NBC Bank has purchased multiple paintings for its permanent collection.”
Her work can be spotted in several other locales including those owned by corporate groups and even the Girls Scouts of Western Oklahoma. Freshley is constantly photographing landscapes, finding inspiration in scenes of everyday life. She’s known for snapping pictures everywhere, she says, including at stop lights and inside airport terminals.
Of breathing life onto the canvas, Freshley likes “the physical act of creating it – the time spent at the easel with a brush in hand – just as a person could enjoy any vocation or hobby.”
Freshley, situated in her hometown of Portland, looks to the future.
“I would love to continue to have my work specified and commissioned for corporate projects,” she says. “And it is a dream of mine to have my work in hotels and restaurants. I really appreciate thoughtful, creative design in both hotels and restaurants. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with Midwest collectors as well as to establishing myself as an artist in Portland.”