Karen Ann Myers, September 2015
September 4, 5-8pm
I am investigating the psychological complexity of women through intimate observations in the bedroom. My paintings are intricately painted, decorative interiors that are partially invented and partly observed. While female artists have regularly painted domestic environments...
I am investigating the psychological complexity of women through intimate observations in the bedroom. My paintings are intricately painted, decorative interiors that are partially invented and partly observed. While female artists have regularly painted domestic environments, I use this frame to explore notions of social space by manipulating perspective and proximity. In her essay Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity, Griselda Pollock discusses relationships between objects and pictorial space: “Space is represented according to the way it is experienced by a combination of touch, texture, as well as sight.” My paintings highlight the connection between what is seen and what is felt by transforming an image into a tactile experience for the viewer.
My bedroom, and more specifically my bed, has always been an important physical and psychological space for me. The rooms in my paintings do not exist but are fantasies of rooms that function as metaphors for an interior life. I design colorful compositions by collaging different source materials together to create many combinations of bedrooms that hold objects that are significant to me or are part of a larger narrative. The work has often been referred to as “cinematic” due to the voyeuristic atmosphere. I utilize my environments and friends to structure mini-narratives from life, including my own personal experiences. In this sense, the portraits become my version of a written diary; documenting what it’s like to be a young woman in contemporary society. The women in my paintings are women I know personally, and I strive to represent some part of their temperament. They are strong, beautiful, independent and complex.
I aim to create paintings that can be both informative and reflective of our current culture. While societal norms may always be in flux, there are many aspects that continue to remain constant. It is important to focus on issues facing contemporary American females, such as the cult of beauty perpetuated in mass media, professional and personal independence, and sexuality.
At first, my work might be read as an ironic reflection of the “male gaze.” However, upon closer viewing, it becomes apparent that it is a thoughtful meditation on how female sexuality and material consumption continues to be negotiated by the mass media. Intricate imagery reflects a variegated response to the daily bombardment of cultural messages received by female American consumers; my paintings react with a sometimes uneasy balance of embrace and rejection. In this respect, the pictures can simultaneously appear to glamorize and critique luxurious textiles that must be procured at a home décor boutique, or a popular magazine’s idea of beauty.
The process of painting is very enjoyable. A significant amount of time is spent planning before paint is even applied to the canvas. All paintings begin as a line drawing, using opaque pigment markers, with the composition and details drawn out entirely. The line drawing serves as a map for the next step, where broader washes of thinned oil paint are applied to establish an overall sense of color and harmony. I paint indirectly, so the final painting is a result of many layers, where each layer is more intricate than the previous one.
For the last four years, I’ve primarily been interested in using the abstract patterning found in various textiles as a unifying design motif and posing the models to react to or with the pattern's structure. For example, the model's limbs mimic the angles and shapes in the bedding, rugs and other ornamentation. I’ve continued to focus on painting portraits of women that I meet and know in a way that represents their personality, identity and humanity. Formally, my paintings have remained focused on bold colors, balanced design and clashing geometric patterns. The newest feature in my work is the inclusion of floral patterns, a design element common in my works in the past. I’m excited about the combination of floral and geometric patterns in the current works.