Kim Behm's oil paintings focus of Hawkeye Art Gallery show

Art by Kim Behm on display in the Hawkeye Art Gallery posted on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 in  College News

WATERLOO – Artist Kim Behm’s recent painting of a dusky early morning in Arizona’s Santa Catalina foothills is a departure from his other works featured in the Hawkeye Art Gallery.

“A Crowded Planet, works by Kim Behm” features 15 pieces with eight richly detailed oil paintings sharing “Pilgrim” in their title. “I don’t work specifically in series, although some of this work focus on the subject matter refugees – the plight of refugees around the world – and the state of the planet. It reflects how I see the world around me,” Behm said.

The Arizona landscape, however, with its cacti and shadowed mountains beneath a purplish-suffused sky – the desert’s so-called “blue hour” a half-hour or so before dawn – represents another aspect of the artist’s eye for composition.

“We were hiking in Catalinas before sunrise. You have to get out early in the day in Arizona in July because the sun is blazing hot,” Behm recalled. It was natural for the artist to want to interpret the contemplative view with oil paints and brush on canvas.

The current exhibit is on display until Feb. 24 in the third-floor gallery at the Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center, 120 Jefferson St. Behm retired from Hawkeye Community College in 2020 as an emeritus professor, but continues to teach part time.

“When I teach painting, I work alongside my students so they can see me working and doing the same things they’re doing. There’s something symbiotic about the studio atmosphere. I like having the space to work and interact with students.”

Behm is from a family of artists, and his resume includes a lengthy career as a professional illustrator. He continues to work as a freelancer. Originally from Des Moines, he trained as a graphic designer and photographer at Des Moines Tech, graduating in 1967. He earned degrees in printmaking, painting and art history from the University of New Mexico, and taught at the university as well as the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

An award-winning artist and illustrator, Behm is recognized for his portraiture that often depicts current affairs, art history and shared cultural experiences. His work often references his love for art history such as “Pilgrims 2,” a painting set in the Louvre’s Salle des Etats in Paris that required him to paint Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” in her gilt frame.

“Painting her wasn’t as hard as having to paint the frame she’s in – I don’t like painting repetitive patterns,” he said with a laugh.

While he doesn’t work from a specific color palette, Behm thinks about color for its expressive qualities, “not painting to reproduce a photographic image. I use color for contrast, texture, light and shadow. I’m making a visual statement, not decorative – well, a little bit, but it’s more than that,” he explained.

Right now there is a prepared canvas on an easel in his studio. “I have no idea what to put on it. I’ve learned to just start and the painting will turn into something that has meaning. You don’t start with a conclusion; it’s a process that builds and grows as you work.”

By Melody Parker, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier


  1. Arts & Culture
  2. Hawkeye Art Gallery
  3. Kim Behm
  4. Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center
  5. Waterloo Courier
Back to top