I’m not one who moves. Literally. I’ve lived in the same place, more or less, since I was 3. I share my childhood home with the boy I loved at 14. All my moves are figurative, my work is how I move. Often in the past they’ve been quick bursts of series through styles, mediums, colors, moods, environmental and existential crises. My comforting constants are the ever changing nature of nature, the language of variable line, and the design of my life.
In 2017 I began studying the fine art of printmaking, gravitating towards multi-layer monotype printing. There are things I can do with monotype printing, that I could never recreate with painting or drawing. The negative and positive effects I obtain with hand-cut stencils aren’t possible with direct application. What draws me to this type of printmaking are the ephemeral surprises and chance discoveries I find when lifting paper from plate.
My latest work uses the interplay of layers as a representation of growth- both personal and environmental. The work builds upon the movement through layers, from dark depths ascending upward or cascading downward towards open brighter space and helps me portray feelings of progression, and often hope. The progress portrayed alludes to aging, mental health, and personal growth from the perspective of a life lived in one place. Ghosted images both literal and figurative are often used as a metaphor for things (family ties, natural surroundings) long past. The evolution of memories as they change and become galvanized into real and imagined beliefs are recreated by the planes of these intentionally created vistas.
Layering allows the surface of my prints to be built up creating deep depths and rising hopeful symbols. The passage of time is an elemental concept that is represented by the movement through the dark layers obscuring previously hidden marks into the open spaces to which they evolve or degrade. The act of corroding rust allows me to create beautiful line and rich area darks with an appropriately decomposing process. It’s work that needs to be made slowly, methodically, patiently. It’s suits me right now. The process is persistent and specific, yet yields amazing surprises. I can steer, but the often unexpected results are exciting and freeing. They compose me as much as I compose them.
Karen Hunter McLaughlin is a lifelong Philadelphia artist who has worked in traditional 2-D mediums as well as steel wire sculpture. She is currently exploring the fine art of monotype and the spontaneous, corrosive properties of rust. Karen’s work is often developed across a surface in cascading or ascending layers that represent movement reminiscent of the passage of time. Current work themes are a congruence of large format, multi-layer prints creating inhabitable “virtual-worlds”, and a collection of smaller prints that focus on human connection, much like the ripple effect of a stone thrown in water.
Karen has been a member of Artessa Alliance, a women’s artist cooperative since 2007. She has been a lead member of the group since 2016 and has curated several of the group’s exhibitions. In 2012-14 Karen worked on the large multi-venue installation “One Year” in collaboration with artists, Brenda Howell, Janice Hayes-Cha, Julie Mann and Kimberly Mehler. Working under two Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grants (’11, ‘13) the artists spent two years mounting several large-scale installations using hundreds of handmade wire vessels, one for every murder in Philadelphia in 2012. Both a mentoring project and art collaboration, One Year was mounted with assistance from Philadelphia anti-violence group- Mothers in Charge.
After leaving art college in her senior year, Karen went on to seek education and artistic connection through life experience. She has exhibited extensively in the Philadelphia tri-state area, and throughout the United States. Her work is held in many private collections as well as in permanent collections at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, East Norriton, PA, and Mission First Projects at Union Eagle Apartments in Bordentown New Jersey, and MBP Apartments in Philadelphia, PA. Karen’s art has also been included in several publications including Philadelphia Stories and Extraordinary Gifts, Remarkable Women of the Delaware Valley.
Karen is the founder and director of KM Digital Design, a graphic and website design and development company since 2010.
1977-1981- Tyler School of Art, Temple University
2002, 2005- Wire Tinkering at Wolf Workshops, Portand, ME with Ellen Wieske, Asst. Director, Haystack Mountain School of Craft
2017-2020- Multilayer Printmaking with Nicole Dul, Cheltenham Center for the Arts
Awards and Grants
CCA Print Guild Award in honor of Esther Rose Fisher for Dogwood Fall, January 2017
Honorable Mention– Manyunk Roxborough Art Center, annual juried show. July 2016
Leeway Foundation, Art and Change. Two grants: Jan, 2012-December 2013, March 2013-December 2013
HatchFund (Formerly USAProjects), artist advocacy grant, 2012
Philadelphia’s Mothers in Charge Peacemaker Award (with MamaCITA), 2012
The Whitman Effect– Hunter Ghosts: Feminine Tree 1865 image included as part of Whitman at 200, Art and Democracy celebration, 2019.
Portrait of the Artist as an Entrepreneur- Ladies Who Launch, Interview with Melissa Tevere for Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship, April 18, 2019
Precious/Unprecious- Here’s the Best Art We Saw in Metro Phoenix in December 2017, Phoenix News Times by December 29, 2017
One Year – Review – theartblog.com
One Year – “In art, mothers find way to deal with losing a child“, article by Melissa Dribben, Inquirer Staff Writer
One Year – Radio Interview – WHYY Newsworks interview by Yowei Shaw
Beginnings – “Images to Soothe“, article by Amy S. Rosenberg, Inquirer Staff Writer
Extraordinary Gifts, Remarkable Women of the Delaware Valley . Edited by Melissa Tevere, Carla Spataro, Tara S. Smith and Courtney Bambrick. 2014.
Antithetical Mutation – Drawing featured in Philadelphia Stories Magazine, Summer 2012