Thursday, August 19, 2010

Karen Russell

Karen Russell will be the featured artist at the Mobile Art Show # 12 on Thursday, August 19th from 7 to 9pm outside the CityArtsFactory in a U-Haul truck. I first met Karen at a Kerouac House event. She had a dark brooding air about her that lead me to think she must be an artist of some kind. I have since seen her several times around town with her edgy, twisted, expressionistic, figurative work. I am always reminded of one of my favorite artists, Egon Schiele, when I see her work.
I have always loved sketching artists at work in their studios and I decided to make it a personal mission to sketch each artist that exhibits in the Mobile Art Show as a way to promote their work. Karen's studio is located in a small ramshackle home set back far away from the road. There was a canoe in the driveway and I noticed that all the windows were painted over. When she greeted me and showed me the living room, the windows glowed with vibrant color like stained glass - only messier. There was an empty pizza box on the sofa and I heard a roommate laughing to himself in a back room.
Her studio had two mattresses on the floor, one with red sheet and one with blue sheets. She was working on a huge canvas which was leaning up against the wall. The only way I could get a sketch of her in the tight space was to crawl across the blue mattress and lean against the wall in the corner. On her laptop computer Karen played an online educational program called TED, about the flight of dragonflies across the ocean. Another program about robotics had me so fascinated that I stopped to watch for a bit.
She is working on a huge painting of Sirens. The stark, almost Egyptian poses express to me a constant mortal angst. While sketching, I liked integrating Karen's arms as she painted, into the fray of gestures. The door and several of the walls had been punched or kicked, leaving large holes. In the hall, her work was hung at an odd angle. I felt like I was in a true artist's garret. It wasn't until I got to the bottom of the sketch that I noticed that the sirens were standing on a pile of human skulls, and that their feet were birds talons.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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