St. Cecilia Cathedral, the Old Market, Creighton University, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The list goes on and on. Think of any Omaha landmark, and chances are, Kathi Geringer has captured it in her distinctive style that she calls “Nouveau Folk Art.”
The printmaker is a self-taught artist who began her career by accident almost 13 years ago. “I did my first Omaha print for fun,” she recalls. “I had an idea to make a collage of Omaha. I took photos of places like Indian Hills and Aksarben and then I drew them in pencil, colored them in with markers, and fit them on a poster board.”
Her mother saw the prints and showed her friends, who purchased copies. Geringer then began creating more prints, making ones of Happy Hollow, Dundee, Memorial Park, and Central High School. In 2002, she sold her prints at Dundee Days and learned that it wasn’t just her mother’s friends who wanted to buy her art. “I paid $50 for a booth, and I made
$2,000,” she says.
From that moment Geringer’s profession as an artist took off, with the list of collectors growing longer each year. That’s because she loves Omaha, and it shows in every print she creates. They are affectionate portraits of places that bring out not just the architecture, but the spirit and traditions inherent in them. And she does so with astonishing detail. For example, if a building has different colors on its facade she portrays them accurately. “I fill in every single brick so it’s accurate,” emphasizes Geringer.
People also connect with her art because it directly touches their lives. “They really resonate with people,” the artist says. “They’re personal. People say, ‘I went to that church, I went to that school.’ Everyone can find something they can relate to. If you live in Omaha and don’t find something, you live under a rock,” she chuckles.
Geringer, however, doesn’t just do landmarks.She has undertaken numerous commissions for organizations and schools celebrating anniversaries, and she also takes private commissions that include one-of-a-kind portraits of people’s homes. These have proved so popular that last June she began featuring them on greeting and Christmas cards. She additionally creates prints that depict places that are meaningful to individuals, making them somewhat analogous to a pictorial This Is Your Life. For example, prints for high school graduates often include preschools, churches, and places where their extracurricular activities took place.
What’s next for Geringer? She would like to branch out and perhaps do prints of landmarks outside Nebraska. And Paris is also a tempting possibility. “Of course I would have to go there,” she laughs. “I’d have to see the buildings in person to photograph them and get them right.”