“Totum animo comprendere caelum” is inscribed on the exterior of the National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma, a global nerve center for all things regarding severe weather and meterological patterns. “To embrace the whole sky with the mind”. The poetic motto of these scientists captures my desire as an artist to paint the magnitude of the sky—from sparkling blue calm to ferocious threatening grey and all the shifting subtleties of colors and implications in-between.
I had the opportunity to paint plein air at the Soaring Gardens Artists’ Residency in rural Pennsylvania. The rolling hills of the landscape there afford an expansive view of an ever changing sky. I was completely absorbed by the daily drama of the clouds. This direct dialogue with nature deeply informs my year round studio practice.
For the past several years I have been painting natural and not so natural disasters, triggered by the near simultaneous explosions of the oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico and the volcano in Iceland. These images became an external manifestation of an apprehensive mood fed by a growing litany of frightening catastrophes, a conflation of many destructive crises consuming the world.
The scope of this exploration has broadened to include forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. Blurring the line between natural and manmade disasters, our influence on our climate has enlarged these phenomena beyond their natural proportions. I am mesmerized by the power of these elemental threats, bigger and more frightening than ever, amplified rather than tamed by modernity.
I am equally as influenced by the history of awe inspired landscape painting (from Turner’s storms to Church’s icebergs), as by the stream of violent images in our daily news feed, and the immediacy of nature and organic form fed from painting outdoors; for me it is all connected.
Karen Marston is a painter living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been seen in several solo exhibitions in NYC. In addition to her recent 2018 show Harbingers, at the Owen James Gallery, they include: 2017’s To Embrace the Whole Sky with the Mind, at Station Independent Projects on the Lower East Side, Demeter’s Wrath in 2016 at the Owen James Gallery in Greenpoint, and Storm Watch, New Paintings in 2012 at Storefront Bushwick.
Some recent group exhibitions include: Disquieting Vicinities at the Owen James Gallery, Elements, a two person exhibition at Station Independent Projects on the Lower East Side, Passing Left curated by The Dorado Project for the Buggy Factory, Vapors and Squalls, or Mediums, at Centotto in Bushwick, and Fluid at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor Cultural Center.
Marston also serves on the Board of Trustees of NURTUREart Non-Profit where she was instrumental in the opening of the NURTUREart Gallery in Brooklyn, project managed the development of the online Registry for Artists and Curators, and hosted Muse Fuse, an informal monthly art salon with many notable guest speakers, for eleven seasons.
Originally from California, she earned her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and participated in the A.I.C.A. New York Studio Program.