The Other Side of May
September 9 – October 14
When I begin a painting, my attention is focused on the design of both the physical “space” as well as that of the painting. I create a situation on canvas by using paint to convey the idea or “symbol” of a room/scene/landscape. The spaces I depict are imagined and sourced from images found both in the real and digital world. My interest in creating these rooms grew first from an investigation of solitude and retreat, and then to a narrower focus on composition and more formal concepts. I consider color, pattern and texture in an architectural and art historical context when creating each work. My interest in both classical styles and modern designs create a scaffold for the space I want to construct. These decisions dictate the feeling and atmosphere of the space. In my work there is a fine line to be drawn between realism and design.
Making accommodations and room for experimentation often means a shift in materials. In the almost two years since the pandemic began, I have busied myself learning to quilt, paper mache, gardening and cooking. In turn, each has informed my paintings, drawings and sculptures. Over the summer, I traveled locally (and safely) in order to paint outdoors and take reference photos. This summer I took trips to Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, Provincetown, Massachusetts and around my home state of Connecticut in order to get some fresh perspective. Through this process I have discovered an interest in location and the idiosyncrasies of a place. I have also revisited my relationship with abstraction with new floral and landscape-based paintings. Having varied interests in technique and subject has informed all elements of making work and I am taking the opportunity at the gallery to display pieces from all of these bodies of work.
Karen Dow was born in Buffalo, New York in 1966. She received a BA in Sculpture and Anthropology at Marlboro College in Vermont and later attended Brandies University in Massachusetts to study painting. In 1998, she graduated from the Yale School of Art with an MFA in painting and printmaking. While at Yale, Karen became very interested in Josef and Anni Albers and immediately began teaching Color and Design at Southern CT State University. This experience solidified her interest in this area and has remained a major influence in her painting and prints. Karen has exhibited her work in New England and Germany, most notably at Alpha Gallery in Boston, Bellwether gallery, the Armory Show, DC Moore in NY, and Giampietro Gallery in CT. She was the recipient of a Fine Arts Work Fellowship in Provincetown MA and won a Joan Mitchell Career Enhancement Grant in 2006. She enjoys traveling and teaching and exhibits her work locally and internationally. Currently, she teaches Printmaking and 2D design and Color at The Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven and screen printing at Southern CT State University. She lives and has a studio in Hamden, Ct.
Printmaking has always been a balance between responding to the materials I am working with and the intuitive knowledge of how to build or compose inside a square or rectangle. I generally work back to front, building a surface until all the shapes and colors convey a sense of purpose and place. I add and edit, recognize relationships, build support for a shape that appears too heavy, while continually hoping to keep the work open and breathing. If the work appears too choked up or densely packed, I’ll apply another layer of ink to open things up again.
In the beginning, shapes and lines are stacked from the bottom edge of a plexiglass plate or relief print and are piled up and out to reach the other sides. I am intrigued by how a shape will appear attached to an edge and the rest of the world inside the space will feel hinged or balanced upon this one decision. The narrative in my head as I am working is about precariousness and strength, the tension building as I add more. I also think about community and the relative dependence of one thing on another. There is tenderness in a gesture from one shape to the next; they lean, support, bear weight, and combine to create a path through the field of color.
This way of working is rooted in a strong desire to relay my feelings as well as allowing space for an emotional response to color relationships and form. In my efforts to communicate without using words or images, I find enormous freedom within the strict parameters I have set for myself. These parameters are directly inspired from my experiences in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery as a child. I spent many hours alone in the contemporary art wing exploring the Color Field Paintings of Agnes Martin, Morris Louis, and Frank Stella. To my young eyes this was a spiritual awakening and I felt very much at home with these works. Every Sunday, I walked around in the mirror room, by Lucas Samaras, and stared into that deep repetitive space. I found it both beautifully organized and chaotic at the same time. I know as a visual thinker; my aesthetic choices are directly related to these experiences. I seek clarity in chaos and am driven by organizing principles and constructing relationships. It is within these parameters that I know I will continue to develop my intuitive response to the printmaking process and find deep satisfaction as an artist. – Karen Dow