by Bridget DeWaard —
As the weather chills and we officially head into fall, get comfy, curl up on the couch, and catch a new episode of “Backstory with Larry Potash.” Centered around our history and stories of the past, local artist Cat Clausen will be featured in the Saturday, October 10 segment aired on Chicago’s
WGN-TV, which explores Abraham Lincoln and the politics of his time. “I remember being drawn intuitively to the tv one day, and catching just a bit of an interview with an artist painting beautiful art pieces onto the backs of people’s jean jackets. The artist was asked, what’s the concept here? Why are you painting on all of these jackets? And the artist said, almost immediately, it’s always love,” local artist Cat Clausen said, sharing how this simple interview became one of the most influential moments on her work. In
keeping with this concept, Clausen describes how she connects her famous historic muse to this direction. “Lincoln loved people, and he loved to encourage people, and being an artist, I get the opportunity to do the same thing, and spread that love through my work.” Ever since she was little, Cat felt a connection to Lincoln. On her website, she talks about watching, “The face of Lincoln,” where sculptor Robert Merrell Gage uses clay to depict Lincoln at different ages. “I was so excited,” she says in the video, “that I tore home, I got a chunk of earth, and I carved my own Lincoln.” Fast
forward a decade or so, when, after attending school and working as an art director, she decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but still craved a creative outlet. She was commissioned to paint a portrait, but, was asked if she could create something different for the background. It was then that her signature style was born; grabbing her flat brush she thinned out her paint, and began filling in the space with long, ribbon like strokes. From there, she started experimenting with different tools and subject matter, challenging herself to paint in her new style. Beginning with flowers and clouds, she eventually moved on to figures and faces. Clausen has now painted over 200 Lincolns, among other subjects, after painting the
first in 2005 using her unique style. Fast forward even further, to 2019, at Lake Forest Art Fair, where she would end up connecting with Larry Potash. “I saw her work,” Potash says, “and thought it would be an interesting way to bring a contemporary element to a 155 year old story.” They would then keep in touch, with Potash sending an email the following fall about the Lincoln program. Always excited to take any opportunity to speak and share her art and love, Clausen agreed, and they arranged to meet at Bravery Fibs, a friends beautiful restaurant, for the taping. The show Clausen will appear on, “Backstory with Larry Potash,” is a show that explores our history, and the stories that connect us to the experiences of those who came before us. Potash gets inspiration for his shows from all kinds of places, most being driven by his own curiosity. “I have learned so much about history doing this show–we all know a tidbit or two about the American Revolution, but doing the research helps put all the random pieces together so you understand the full context,” Larry says of Backstory. Through these stories, we get to explore our history outside the simplistic when and where details, journeying instead into the how and why. “I feel Backstory fills a void. The History Channel is full of goofy stories on UFO’s and Cults. This is real history, and it’s also non-partisan.” Cat’s episode is set to air Saturday, October 10, at 10:30 p.m. “[It starts with] an interview with former presidential advisor Sidney Blumenthal, who is writing a series about Lincoln,” explains Potash. “We talk about Lincoln’s rise to power, and how nasty politics were then–even more so than now.” They also plan to do an additional program on Cat some time next year. During this first segment, Clausen will be adding finishing touches to various Lincoln paintings, and discussing elements of her unique style as she paints. She chose unfinished pieces as part of the segment partially due to time, but also wanted to be sure to show finished work through larger pieces, so that the audience could still be part of the process. “It just gets more entertaining toward the end,” Cat says of the experience. “In the beginning, things are moving kind of slow, and the figure is just starting to take shape…but toward the end, you really get to watch the painting come alive.” Clausen is also currently working on new pieces, including painting a gessoed felt Lincoln top hat with various Lincoln scenes and other related material, inspired by a piece her husband had commissioned from another local artist, Marla Kinkade. She also has several Lincoln related videos and facts on her website, catclausen.net, and continues to add new info for those that share her interest of Lincoln and his influential life. Using art as her platform, she hopes to improve her part of the world, even if just in some small way. This, she says, will always be more important than anything she will make. “[Being an artist isn’t necessarily] looking for what to paint, it is simply the personal interaction with others…it’s always love.” Catch Cat and Larry on “Backstory with Larry Potash” Saturday October 10, 10:30 pm and Sunday, October 11, at 11 pm. Mention podcasts.