Artist of the Week 01/16/06
The first paintings I had ever seen of Karen's were the from her "Xena Warrior Princess" series. At the time I thought the exploration they represented was fun and perhaps culturally daring (it's tough as a gay person surrounded by the icons and corresponding codes and narratives to know what will strike straight audiences as "scandalous" or whatever) but, for me at that time at least, they seemed rather campy (none the least because of their German Expressionistic overtones). Not that there's anything wrong with that:
Karen Heagle, two paintings from "The Legend of Xena" series, circa 1999(?). (I apologize for the quality of these images and lack of accurate information...the paintings are truly gorgeous in real life, but these were the only images I could get my googling/photoshopping mitts on.)
In watching Karen's work develop over the years though, I've gained a new-found admiration for that earlier work, which I've realized---partly from talking more with her and partly from the press release from her 2001 solo exhibition at Brooklyn's most rockin' gallery, 31 Grand---deals with "the erotic connection between everyday life and science fiction comics." From that exhibition's press release:
Heagle mines her Midwestern roots, and flights of fancy into her paintings of popular culture icons and farmland settings. To quote [Dorothy] Allison [whose in 1985 essay, "Puritans, Perverts and Feminists." inspired these works] , "Most sexual imagery does not have one interpretation but a range of multilevel impacts depending on context, personal taste, and hidden symbolism". Karen Heagle finds her own meaning in the already familiar faces of AJ from the Backstreet Boys, Chyna from WWF, and the animals and farm machinery from her childhood.Karen is currently represented in New York by I-20 Gallery, where she has a solo exhibition opening on January 28th. We've been talking about another studio visit for a year now it seems, but judging from the images on the gallery's website, her most recent work still deals with erotic imagery, mid-Western values, and celebrity. But she's taking on art history more directly now as well:
Karen Heagle, Bather (after Magritte), 2005, Oil on panel, 66" x 61" (image from I-20 Gallery's website).
As well as referencing the celebrity of the current art scene:
Karen Heagle, Andy Goldsworthy, 2004, Acrylic on paper, 41" x 56" (image from I-20 Gallery's website).
All the while maintaining a luxurious senusality:
Karen Heagle, Low Tide At Rialto Beach 4 (Entagled Starfish), 2005, Oil on panel, 40" x 52" (image from I-20 Gallery's website).
I'm delighted by the new series, I must say. They're smart, mature, and clearly painted by an artist more confident in her skills and her analysis of the subject matter. And, best of all perhaps, they can still remind me of Thanksgiving:
Karen Heagle, Turkey, 2005, Oil on panel, 50" x 47" (image from I-20 Gallery's website).