Helen Klebesadel is an artist, an educator, and an activist. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, her art has become the place where she explores how we learn our deepest values. Best known for her environmental and women centered watercolors, she is particularly interested in how myths and stories socialize us to have different expectations for some people than from others. She uses the creative process to re-examine and re-present narratives that resist and contest existing power structures by revealing they exist.
Helen’s watercolors push the traditional boundaries of the medium in scale, content, and technique. Ranging in size from the intimate to the monumental, her paintings are transparent watercolors on paper and canvas. She starts with detailed drawings and developing the images with layer upon layer of color washes and dry brush technique mixed with occasional areas of wet-into-wet spontaneity.
Helen exhibits her work nationally and internationally, including being invited to show her watercolors in several American Embassies through the Arts in the Embassies Program. The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum presented her first solo museum exhibition in 1994. Her artwork is represented in the art collections of the American Council on Education, Lawrence University, UW Hospitals and Clinics, Central Wisconsin Center, the Dubuque Medical Clinic, the St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, Nebraska and numerous private collections. Several of her watercolors addressing environmental themes are also in the collections of the UW-Madison”s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. as well as the University’s Trout Lake Research Station. Helen’s public commissions include a twelve-foot watercolor for Ellen and Peter Johnson HospiceCare Residence, and a series of large watercolors for the new University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
Klebesadel earned her BS, a certificate in Women’s Studies, and a MFA in art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught courses and workshops on creativity, studio art, and the contemporary women’s art movement for two decades. Helen taught studio art and chaired the art department at Lawrence University from 1990-2000, before leaving to accepting the position of Director of the University of Wisconsin System’s Women’s Studies Consortium in 2000. Helen retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue full time art making, private workshops and creativity coaching in the fall of 2018.
Helen Klebesadel’s watercolors and prose have been published in Frontiers, Feminist Studies, Interweave, CALYX and Femspec. Most recently her work was included in 100 Artists of the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, published in June 2012 by E.Ashley Rooney, and her art and activism is included in the book, Vision, Passion & Purpose: ARTISTS As World Changers, by Renee Phillips.
Helen Klebesadel is a past national president of the national Women’s Caucus for Art and served on the Wisconsin Arts Board as a member from 2006-2013. In 2021 the International Caucus of the national Women's Caucus for Art added her to their Honor Roll, an award designed to recognize important artist/activists who have made significant contributions to the field.
Helen created a video in February 2021 for a women's and gender studies conference in which she talks about her experiences and influences as a feminist and an artist: Painting An Artist's Life
Helen's art website can be seen at http://klebesadel.com
Her teaching. consulting and coaching information can be found here: http://CreativityLessons.com
Her two ongoing collaborative art projects are:
The Exquisite Uterus Project with Alison Gates and 200 other artists: http://exquisiteuterus.com
The Flowers Are Burning: An Art and Climate Justice Project with Mary Kay Neumann: https://www.theflowersareburning.com
“My visual concerns run the gamut from careful study to poetic, symbolic and sometimes political representations of nature and human nature.”