Karen Owsley Nease caught her first vision of Lake Superior during a visit to Duluth in 1994. She knew instinctively that one day she would return. Moving here within the last three years she has become a welcome addition to the Northland arts scene.
Beginning April 30 her show Found Horizons will be on display at the Duluth Art Institute in the Morrison Gallery. The opening reception is slated for May 14, but on the 30th (just over two weeks) she will be giving an Artist's Talk at 5:30. I encourage anyone interested in modern painting to attend.
EN: Your upcoming show is titled Found Horizons featuring our Great Lake Superior. What are some things you learned while preparing for this show, either about yourself or our Northland?
|Break in the Clouds (Nease)|
Duluth and the Northland are a very comfortable fit. Everyone has been kind and welcoming.
EN: You’ve cited 19th-century Transcendentalist landscape painting and Abstract Expressionism as major influences in your work. Who in particular of the landscape painters really interests you and why?
KN: My childhood influences were Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran; I saw their work a lot at a local art museum. They both painted the grandeur the Eastern U.S. and the American west of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Later influences were George Inness, Fitz Hugh Lane and other Hudson River School artists. These painters were interested in the sublime, something I am working towards in my paintings of the horizon.
EN: As for the Abstract Expressionists, same question.
|Blood Moon (Nease)|
EN: You mention being accepted into an upcoming plein air competition this summer, which dovetails nicely with your landscape interests. How does plein air differ from other kinds of painting?
KN: Unlike the controlled studio environment, plein air painting can feel like a very athletic event. It is an intellectual and physical race against the light. Plein air is painted outdoors The painter has to find the ideal location, schlep all of his/her materials to the spot and work in whatever weather presents itself. One has to capture the color and form of the important elements of the composition before the clouds come in or the sun moves too far and it all changes. That can be very challenging. Painting quickly from observation, especially outdoors forces one to learn how to edit to capture the essence of the scene. It is also develops the skill of quickly mixing colors. Plein air is a really good way to get into “good painting shape.”
EN: You and your husband Joe are considering the opening of a gallery here in the Twin Ports. What kind of gallery are the two of you envisioning at this point?
KN: We are discussing a lot of ideas right now and starting to think about the layout and required building improvements of our building in the Lincoln Park area of the west end of Duluth. Our gallery would provide contemporary art exhibitions in a “white box” style of space. It would be a place where one could explore in depth the work of one or a few artists in curated exhibits. We would work with professional regional and national artists. As a painter, I am particularly interested in having some exhibitions of paintings, especially where the term painting is broadly defined.
The west end of Duluth is undergoing revitalization and we want our gallery to be a part of that. Duluth is unique in its juxtaposition of industry and culture pushed up against the wilderness. It also has a history of craft, artisan and “maker” cultures and our gallery could reinforce those ideas with some exhibitions. We also would like to see some type of residency programs established that would bring in artists from elsewhere to work and exhibit in Duluth. There is much to consider.
EN: I enjoyed the digital pattern collage work you were doing. Now you will be returning to that style in the fall in some collaborative explorations with Alison Aune. How did that project come about? Have you done collaborative work in the past and if so, what’s the draw in collaboration?
|Mr. and Mrs. Paisley (Nease)|
This will be my first collaboration. I am not interested in collaborating unless I feel that the results will provide a greater insight into what both artists are doing. There are similarities and differences in how patterns function in our artwork. I’m interested to see how/if the response to one another’s patterns will affect our work.
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Thank you for sharing.