“My visual concerns run the gamut from careful study to poetic, symbolic and sometimes political representations of nature and human nature.”


Photo of Helen Klebesadel in her studio by Lori Ushman

“I believe the act of making art can be an act of self-determination and empowerment. My paintings examine how in re-claiming, re-visioning, and re-membering ourselves as whole people, we bring our art, our action, and our voices to the world. We have to be able to imagine the world we want in order to achieve it. In our creative work, it is important that we notice and examine how awareness occurs on the path to finding a creative and critical voice. When we recognize that our place in the world is a part of larger social patterns, we can start to change those patterns to create the world we want to live in.” — Helen Klebesadel.

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 exhibits her work nationally and internationally.  Her 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 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 at Lawrence University for ten years, and Chaired the Art Department before leaving to become Director of the University of Wisconsin System’s Women’s Studies Consortium in 2000.  In January 2013 Helen moved with the Women’s Studies Consortium to the UW-Madison where the WSC is now hosted by the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.  Now, with an additional appointment in the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, Helen teaches non-credit on-line and face-to-face art classes to adults.   She also Directs the Wisconsin Regional Artist Program offering exhibition opportunities for Wisconsin artists.

She contributed a chapter entitled Re-Framing Studio Art Critique and Practice, to the recently published text New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction, and co-authored with Lisa Kornetsky the chapter, Critique as signature pedagogy in the arts, in Exploring Signature Pedagogies: Approaches to Teaching Disciplinary Habits.

Helen Klebesadel’s watercolors and prose have been published in FrontiersFeminist StudiesInterweave, 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 will be included in the forthcoming book, Vision, Passion & Purpose: ARTISTS As World Changers,  by Renee Phillips.

She is a past national president of the national Women’s Caucus for Art and served on the  Wisconsin Arts Board as a citizen member from 2006-2013.

Check out how the Artsy Shark blog featured Helen’s work recently.