Artist Cherine Marie-Kuster brings her paintings to The Art Center for a month-long exhibition beginning Sunday.

Painter and sculptor Cherine Marie-Kuster has been a fixture of the Texas Panhandle art community for years.  Among other things, she has been the featured artist at the XIT Rodeo and Reunion.  She has won "Best of Show" at the Lubbock Watercolor Society and the "Best of the Southwest" exhibition in Amarillo.  Two years ago, at an exhibition in Santa Fe, she won the opportunity to spend a free week in New York state painting plein air.  She opted instead to spend the time with an old childhood friend painting aspens in Colorado.  On Sunday, she begins a month-long exhibition of her paintings at The Art Center in Dumas.  The exhibition kicks off with a reception from 2:00 to 4:00 pm.

Though she is also well known for her unique sculptures of horses and other things made out of everything from old musical instruments to parts from a deconstructed television set, the exhibition at The Art Center will focus on paintings.  "There is everything from fine art to whimsical art," she said.  Among the works will be oils, pastels, acrylics, and  watercolors.  Her subjects reflect her childhood growing up on a ranch near Lefors and in Colorado, and they include people, birds, deer and other animals, and, especially, horses.  "Being ranch raised, and I have always been horse crazy, so horses are always kind of a natural for me.  If there is a horse around, I am either riding it, painting it, or petting on it."

Though she can render subjects with photographic realism, Marie-Kuster chooses to give them her own interpretation.  "I don't want my stuff to look  realistic.  Close, but I like my whimsys. … I like when people smile."  Her animals are often depicted in poses that are not typical.  "I like unusual shots. … I try to give them personality."  One picture in the exhibition is of a seagull cocking its head.  "It is like it is asking a question."

Having an individual style and expressing what is uniquely in her head and heart are important to Marie-Kuster.  The biggest compliments she says she has received for her art have been when people say they knew just from looking that a work was hers, even without seeing the signature.

Over the years she has developed her art by taking workshops from renowned artists such as Ben Konis and John Seerey-Lester.  But whatever she learns from others, she has tried to remain true to her own vision.  "There is a point where you can take all the workshops in the world, and you lose yourself.  I don't want to be that person.  I want to be me."

Marie-Kuster also writes, and she has written a little story for each of her paintings.  "I like imagination," she said.  The stories will hang with the paintings.  

Asked why she does art, Marie-Kuster replied, "Sanity.  It is just something I have to do, ever since I was a little bitty kid, as long as I can remember I have been drawing. "

Marie-Kuster's father was a blacksmith who made artistic spurs and other things.  He taught her how to draw deer as a child.  She spent much of her childhood working cattle, but she always made time for art, even drawing patterns in the wet hair on the backs of sweating horses.  It was "an unusual young life, and I loved it."

For 35 years Marie-Kuster worked as a nurse in Texas and Colorado.  No matter what, though, she has always been an artist.  She remembers using orange betadine antiseptic to draw animals on the hands of children to distract them as they waited to go to surgery.

She first sold a work of her own art more than 20 years ago for $26, and she has never looked back.  She taught art to senior citizens at Amarillo College for a time ("I loved teaching.") and had her own gallery at Sunset Center until that complex of galleries closed following the death of owner and artist Ann Crouch  

Today, she concentrates on making art and exhibiting it around the country.  Early next year, she will show in South Carolina.  She has no intention of ever stopping.  "I can spend hours just watching, critters or the sunset.  I hope my sight never goes.  I love seeing things.  If something happened, I would still be drawing in the dark."  

She and her husband, Mark, a retired electrical engineer, moved to Dumas from Amarillo two years ago.  He told her once that she had influenced the way he observed the world around him.  "I had never seen the colors going to work until I met you," he said.  

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