DS Studio Visit: Karen Ann Myers

DailyServing.com has added a new section to the website, DS Studio Visits. This will be an ongoing series where our writers visit private artist studios from around the world, discussing the artwork directly with the artist. The first artist of the series is painter Karen Ann Myers.

Karen Ann Myers recently invited DailyServing’s Celie Dailey into her one-bedroom apartment, which she is temporarily using as a painting studio. The artist studied graphic design, painting, and arts education for her BFA at Michigan State University and is a graduate of Boston University‘s MFA program in painting. She is motivated by a formal inquiry into uniting the patterned landscape of decorated space with the figure. Myers seeks to document her experiences in love and eroticism, her childhood memories, and herself as a 25-year old woman in a contemporary culture that places high value on glamor and sex appeal.

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The artist enjoys furnishings with bold patterns and fine textures, but seeks organization and simplicity in her limited space, a quality which is also reflected in her paintings. As we talk, she pulls out books, showing me her favorite paintings, including David Hockney‘s Domestic Scene that she admired while making The Nose Picker.

Combining memories with models, The Nose Picker shows “just some random hot chick” from a magazine with a young version of Karen and her sister. She presents two worlds in contrast, unable to occupy the same space without tension. She also questions a woman’s ability to be taken seriously in a pose like this but also asks the viewer to seek a narrative and to see a relationship between the child’s gesture and the sexed-up lip tugging.

Karen considers her work rooted in the concept of the self-portrait, even when not painting herself, she is making an artifact of her world. She often paints friends and family, people she “knows well enough to feel comfortable assigning a pattern to them,” but recently she has been examining the glossy printed images of women from popular sources. She investigates the figure alongside the materials that are clues to their identity. She sees her textiles as a means of camouflage for her subjects and attaining beauty as a way of hiding fear and isolation.

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A saturated, lively palette and playful assemblage of patterns produces an ironic, chaotic space to show her neglected subjects. She seeks to comprehend the poses that appear unnatural as they attempt to be pretty when subjected to someone’s gaze, whether a lover or photographer. Thinking of You investigates this idea, as it plays on the viewer as onlooker. She embraces the bird’s eye perspective and other methods of eliminating depth. Karen’s patterns are often well rendered while she experiments with how three-dimensional her figures should be. In Thinking of You, she points out that the body is fairly flat, while the breasts are more rendered.

She also enjoys the tedious, meditative quality of painting complex patterns. She often does many studies for larger works by painting with egg tempera, drawing, and making collages and prints. She uses Sharpie marker as a line-making tool in these works and large works too. Her printmaking method is collagraphy. Building layers on cardboard sealed with polycrylic, she collages with cutouts, fabric, and sometimes buttons, sequins or puff paint to create texture. An impressive print is Never is a Promise #5, showing faceless bodies and a contorted hand, reminiscent of genitalia, in a sex act.

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In her early work, as she began to integrate the figure with decoration, she was looking at Gustav Klimt‘s collages. Her influences are abundant, including David Hockney and Alex Katz for their reductive linear style and simplified rendering of the figure. She has investigated the bodily distortion in the work of John Currin, seeking tightly-rendered realism, in Dana Schutz‘s narrative playfulness, and in the expressive styles of Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon, and Cecily Brown. She admires Richard Diebenkorn for his interesting poses, Margherita Manzelli‘s figures in isolation, and Alice Neel‘s narrative, linear style. But her main inspiration these days, alongside her personal collection of photographs, is W Magazine and other fashion publications and stores like Anthropologie and Pottery Barn.

Her paintings and prints exist nationally in private collections and have most recently been exhibited at the Robert Steele Gallery in New York, the Commonwealth Gallery in Boston, and the Katzen Arts Center in Washington, DC. Karen Ann Myers is currently the executive director of Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, SC

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