Karen Hunter McLaughlin
2021 Residency work
Cheltenham Center for the Arts
Beginning in January 2021 I was priviledged to be granted a print residency at Cheltenham Center for the Arts just outside Philadelphia, PA.
The journey began in the deep quarantine of the pandemic second wave. The art center was closed to the public, and there were no other residents during the round. Solitude reigned. Working in isolation I used the freedom to develop new monotype skills. Rust, layers, hand-cut stencils, and ink are the mediums of this exploration.
Early in the pandemic lockdown I read Underland by Robert MacFarlane, an adventurer and nature writer. As historian Andrea Wulf describes “Underland shows us how to see in the dark.” This was exactly what I needed at the critical time just before my CCA residency. I reveled in the dive below ground and found ambient music at the same time. Underland introduced me to the groundbreaking work of Susanne Simard. Through her investigations of the understorey of temperate forests, micorrhizal networks, and the mutualism of trees, the writings of MacFarlane, and the layered music of Philp Glass and Brian Eno, I found comfort and direction…
Read about my connected outdoor installation at High School Park in Elkins Park, PA, completed during this time- Kinship
Several of the works in the exhibit used augmented reality (AR). To view the AR the Artivive App was made available through mobile devices. QR Codes accompanied the works to quickly link to it in the app download.
Over/Understory expands on previous themes that include the movement of nature; flutter of leaf, ripple of water, scatter of seed– their ebb and flow. This new work evolves to embrace the inspiring connections made by all living things at the cellular level.
“There’s grace in complexity, in actions cohering, in sum totals. We can find this in ourselves, in what we do alone, but also in what we enact together. Our own roots and systems interlace and tangle, grow into and away from one another and back again in a million subtle movements” – Susan Simard, Finding the Mother Tree
My fascination with the michorrizal network – the symbiotic association between a green plant and a fungus- developed over the early months of the initial Covid 19 crisis. I was drawn to the deep connections between trees and fungi, how they invisibly shared what the other lacked. How they rescued each other.
I needed that in a world of news that included the sheer panic of a global health pandemic, anxious political changes, and unprecedented social unrest.
The natural world is a refuge that I explored in my early print practice. The language of shapes I developed mimic the shapes of nature reminiscent of childhood playthings. The bramble of wild blackberry, the fuzzy explosion of a jewelweed seedpod, were used as directional arrowheads moving and connecting geographical space.