Photo: David Howells
Karen Marston (b. 1964, Madison, WI) paints landscapes resonant with the vivid beauty of nature and the existential threat of global warming. Raised in California, she earned her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and participated in the A.I.C.A. New York Studio Program. Her work has been seen in solo exhibitions in New York City, including three at the Owen James Gallery—Fire Season (2021), Harbingers (2018) and Demeter’s Wrath (2016)—as well as at Station Independent Projects and Storefront Bushwick, plus the recent solo show Relative to the Horizon (2022) at the James Baird Gallery in Canada. She has also participated in many group exhibitions in a variety of New York spaces including Metaphor Projects, Front Room Gallery, and the SPRING/BREAK Art Show. She has been awarded multiple residencies at both the Pouch Cove Foundation in Newfoundland and the Jentel Artists Residency in Wyoming. Marston served as President of the Board of Trustees of NURTUREart Non-Profit for over ten years. She was instrumental in the growth of the organization: opening the NURTUREart Gallery and hosting eleven seasons of Muse Fuse, an informal monthly art salon with many notable guest speakers from the forefront of the New York art world. Marston currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
I paint landscapes resonant with existential threat, bearing witness to the impacts of climate change and the formidable power and beauty of nature. These range from small works on paper to large scale pieces that envelop the viewer. I work both outdoors on site and in the studio from sketches and photographic reference material. I produced my most recent work at residencies in Newfoundland and Wyoming. The rocky coast of the North Atlantic and the high desert of the Great Plains share a vast, windswept expansiveness that I find profoundly awe-inspiring. The sublime, an essential through line, connects these to my exploration of the disquieting gravity of ecological disasters. The interrelation of natural and manmade phenomena crystalized for me in 2010 when two concurrent explosions created mirror image columns of smoke—one rising from the burning oil-rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the other from a volcano erupting in Iceland. Since then I’ve pursued two corresponding bodies of work. The first, paintings of natural catastrophes—the escalation of forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, the melting arctic and bleaching coral reefs. The second, landscape paintings immersed in the striking beauty of unscathed nature. Historically, I’m influenced by the majestic drama of Turner and Church, the luminous spirituality of Heade and Kensett. My observation of the landscape is also informed by the current pervasive news images of ever intensifying natural disasters. I am deeply focused on the environmental paradox of beauty and destruction, the struggle between the inescapable power of nature and the hubris of the human desire to control it.
For more on my practice
My Brooklyn studio, with paintings from the bleached coral reefs series
Sketching at Cape St. Francis, while in residence at the Pouch Cove Foundation in Newfoundland, Canada