The Big Bang with Karen Fenley

June 1, 2023

"The process that resulted in the formation of our universe is an apt metaphor for the process of making anything new—the transformation from many parts to one thing and then back again."

Back to the Beginning, acrylic paint on canvas

The show title is The Big Bang and Beyond, but Karen did not start this body of work with a concept or narrative in mind. The idea emerged as the work progressed, and Karen started thinking about the Big Bang. She often looks at images of space from the James Webb telescope, and finds them comforting, and even spiritual.    

The workspace

In her studio Karen had paintings that she just could not throw out. She began several works with these. “You can work abstractly, but you have to have a starting point."

The Party’s Over, mixed media collage

"Let’s get serious! It’s time to stop exploiting the earth, and just take care of it—and us.” And there's the lovely blue earth floating on Karen’s last thin sheet of real gold leaf.   

The Witness, mixed media collage

The Witness evolved from cutouts and figured papers Karen had in the studio—some busy paper with a design she liked, cut and painted, and shapes of stiff cut paper.

"I know that Picasso used pieces of wallpaper and cutouts, and the black shape reminds me of some of his figures. That strange thing on the left reminds me of a cross between a metronome and a catapult."

"My explorations led me back to my interest in typography, an interest shared by a huge number of artists who have used various alphabets and broken alphabets in their work."

Prespeech, acrylic paint on panel

"The colored figures on the paintings are letter parts, here with black painted between them. The shapes are extremely familiar, but they are not the letters themselves. It's like creating my own language. They remind me of my brain when I can’t remember a name!”

Nexit, mixed media collage

"The imagery in Nexit can be seen as surviving a challenging journey and living to tell the tale or simply moving on to what is next."

"I've visited many places in the Southwest and Mexico looking at pictographs and petroglyphs. People try to figure them out but there aren't any certain answers here though you can get a feeling for what is indicated. Looking at Islamic and other calligraphies is a similar experience of seeing consistent forms that because it's not a language I am familiar with can only be seen abstractly."

"The quest was to put these together in a way that tells my story, and you may see them completely differently, and that’s what I hope."

Miriam Davis
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