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Art & Life with Karen Eisele

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Eisele.

Karen, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I can’t remember a time growing up that I didn’t love to paint, draw and create. It’s strange to look back and think that I never considered art as a career path. I know now that I went to Texas A&M University and received a Business degree to fulfill my mother’s dream rather than my own. After graduation, my husband and I moved to Midland, in West Texas, where I worked as an accountant for an oil company for several years.

One day, out of the blue, a friend of mine invited me to a painting class held in a trailer in the middle of the desert. At the time, little did I know that this art class would change my trajectory from business to art and design. I loved this weekly class and was reconnected to my creativity. I started to think “If I could do THIS as a job that would be wonderful.” However, I was also still thinking “consistent paycheck” so I went back to school (driving two hours round trip to Lubbock, some semesters five days a week) to attend Texas Tech University where I earned my Master of Architecture degree.

By the time I graduated, we had moved to Dallas and I started working for HKS, a large Architecture firm. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I started working, my husband was transferred to Rio de Janeiro. I was just starting my new career and disappointed, but who can turn down Rio??? While living in Rio without a visa to work, and missing the hands-on design from architecture, I started taking classes in painting and drawing. After Brazil, we moved to Caracas, Venezuela where I studied at the school “Arte del Fuego” learning glass fusion and ceramics.

Loving the expat life, I was disappointed when our next assignment was back in the States. However, after spending so much time learning new techniques in Brazil and Venezuela, I was excited to study at the Glassell School of Art here in Houston and in 2004 I attended my first Iconography workshop. Today, when I look back over my journey, after all of the many hours of intense work, long drives, and failed attempts, I recall my long-ago dream “If I could do THIS as a job …. that would be wonderful.” And it is!

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Several years ago, I became interested in process. I love pouring oil paint and manipulating it through various mediums and prepared supports to create unexpected spaces, shapes and textures. At first, I would use photos that I had taken of plants and flowers for compositional reference. Then I became interested in chandeliers with their multifaceted forms, shapes and curving armatures. At the same time, I was experimenting with my oil paints, I was learning more about Byzantine Iconography. Again, I fell in love with the process and learning to use traditional materials and techniques. The gesso is made with chalk dust, marble dust, and rabbit’s skin glue. Bole (red clay, water, rabbits skin glue and a bit of honey) is placed under the 24k gold leaf and on the edges of the board. The paint medium is egg tempera which is a mixture of egg yolk and white wine. Ground pigments from rocks, precious and semi-precious stones are mixed with the medium to create a smooth, fast drying, very durable paint.

My work in both abstract oil painting and Iconography are very different. One is steeped in a tradition of process, imagery and symbolic meaning. The other, while also based in process, is freer, exploratory, and flows between technique and chance.

Currently, I have begun experimenting with joining these two different processes and images. After the oil paint is layered and manipulated there is a flow, line or shape that wouldn’t have been imagined before, suggesting a space, depth, mountain range or landscape. Marks borrowed from Iconography are then added to emphasize and enhance the accidental imposing order and structure. The small scale of this work is reminiscent of the Icons and invites an intimate conversation with the viewer.

Recently, I have started a new series of work based on a contemporary look at Iconography. I have noticed fashion advertising that resembles the compositions found in icons. This has led to the experimental jump of taking the conservative icon into the realm of the “fashion icon,” highlighting where these divergent images might intersect. The resulting hybrid paintings combine two artforms that both operate on the periphery of the fine art world, with a subverting twist.

Has the role of the artist changed?
I don’t think that the role of the artist has changed at all. Artists have always looked to the world around them experimenting with expression. I’m always amazed and inspired by the creativity of others. It is fascinating to see the different ways we approach an idea, whether conceptually, as a source of protest or as a meditative moment.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Now until August I have several pieces in the “Real/Surreal” show at the Silos in Sawyer Yards and in the “Come Together” show at Winter Street in Sawyer Yards. I can be reached through my website: kareneisele.com at email ke@kareneisele.com. I am also on Instagram and Facebook as @kareneiseleartist.
Currently I am working in studio #205 in the Bermac Building at 4101 San Jacinto St., Houston, TX 77004. Visitors are always welcome.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Bermac Building Studio #205
    4101 San Jacinto St., Houston, TX 77004
  • Website: kareneisele.com
  • Phone: 832-236-9618
  • Email: ke@kareneisele.com
  • Instagram: kareneiseleartist
  • Facebook: kareneiseleartist

Image Credit:
1) Mother of Tenderness, 10″x8″, oil and gold leaf on board
2) Landscape 15-8, 12″x12″, oil on board
3) Mandylion 4”x4”, oil and gold leaf on board
4) Caveat Emptor, 10″x8″, egg tempera, 18k gold ink and bole on board
5) Hidden Blessings, 8″x8″, egg tempera, gold leaf and bole on board
6) Confidence, 10″x8″, egg tempera, gold leaf and bole on board
7) St George and the Dragon, 12 1/2″ x 9″, egg tempera, gold leaf and bole on board
8) Mother of Tenderness, 12 1/2″ x 9″, egg tempera, gold leaf and bole on board

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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