Artist Kami Mendlik Captures the St. Croix Valley’s Beauty

Painting of a local scene by Stillwater artist Kami Mendlik.

Born in North Carolina and raised in Stillwater, Kami Mendlik’s entire life has evolved around art. “I’ve studied a lot and I’ve always painted,” she says, and the St. Croix Valley has been fundamental to Mendlik’s inspiration as an artist. “I feel like I’m a part of [this landscape]. I love the beauty we have here, because it’s so complex, yet simple.” While working on the technical skills of her craft and satisfying her artistic curiosity, Mendlik has traveled throughout the country. However, she always comes home. “I’m fortunate that I’m from here,” Mendlik says, “and I chose to stay [in Stillwater] because I love it.”

That love manifests beautifully in her work. Mendlik is an intellectual and visual sponge. Her paintings depict the valley as it is, untainted, and gives each color careful consideration. She sees no need to interpret something that she sees as naturally beautiful. “Painting [itself] actually inspires me, and I use what’s in front of me. The reason that a painting exists is because of the exact intersection of time, place and space. That, to me, is magical.”

Mendlik’s studies reflect that outlook, as she focuses on capturing single moments. She has studied a variety of artistic approaches, from the prismatic palette to classical realism. “Painting is learning, studying and grounding yourself,” she says. “It’s one big dance between passion and intellect. We actually have to study and then come back to the authenticity we were born with.” With that perspective, it was only natural for Mendlik to turn toward teaching. “I think that the river brings a lot of creative people to the valley, and there is a lot of talent tucked away that people don’t know about,” she says. In that way, Mendlik considers the St. Croix Valley area a true haven for artists.