Artist Statement

Detail, Panorama Study, Karen Marston

Detail, Panorama Study, 2017

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 Icelandic volcano. 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 continuing exploration broadened to include forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. Larger and more frightening than ever, amplified rather than tamed by modernity, I have been mesmerized by the power of these elemental threats.

I recently became interested in some of the subtler, out of everyday view, but no less destructive phenomena of climate change. I visited Newfoundland to see one of the nearest available glimpses of melting icebergs which resulted in a series of paintings depicting the sweeping scale of slow dissolve. These harbingers come with a message, like otherworldly creatures from a distant time, a literal and metaphoric warning of more losses to come.

My latest subject is also a climate change induced crisis unfolding in our oceans, the destruction of coral reefs. Like the melting of the arctic, this waterbound environment is rapidly being altered by warming temperatures. In their beautiful death throes, the coral flouresce, emitting chemicals that color them brilliant purple and yellow in an attempt to protect themselves from overheating. This stage is followed by bleaching white—their loss of color a literal draining of life force—before their eventual death leaves behind an underwater boneyard. The death of these complex organisms has cascading effects on their surrounding ecosystems and profoundly symbolizes our interdependence on nature and the terrifying dangers currently facing all life on earth.