Artist Statement
May 2018

I am interested in a relationship between the cultural and natural worlds that includes the earth, the body as a sensing being, language, and the artist’s potential to construct meaning through a process of participating with and within these systems. My work relates to human and natural activity; and is informed by an ecological, cultural and political consciousness. Primarily, I make site-specific sculpture based on a complex web of information gathered through research, site visits, walking the landscape or urbanscape, collecting materials, discussion with community members and my own visual response to site and context. I also make installations, drawings, prints, photographs, video and “walking art”. 

By amplifying and intensifying ordinary phenomena I find the subject matter for the work. My subjects are there for everyone to see, but so woven into the fabric of the everyday that they are not usually noticed. My work seeks to encourage an aware state of being. To this end I seek a cultivation of the gentle and the simple – walking, digging, observing, hearing, feeling, and connecting. This work supports the effort of understanding how things interconnect to make the world work by slowing pace enough to make sense of its complexity.

I think of Rachel Carson and her great influence on our thinking about the substances we use in our relation to the environment we inhabit.  I paraphrase her words here--If we can only take time to see the beauty in our world, perhaps we will be less disposed to destroy it. Having witnessed a landslide during my stay in Italy while on leave in 2014, I began making drawings and sculpture about landslides. Upon my return to the U.S. I began making drawings about drought as well. These make use of egg tempera and egg tempera paste that I create using found earth colors as pigment. These drawings have led to a large sculpture relating our habits as consumers in the contemporary world with the earth itself, with its strata and movement. I have been leading sensory walks, in New York’s Central Park for example, as a strategy towards creative activity that is essentially resource neutral. I am involved in making an installation that has been continually growing since 2007. Titled Seemingly Unconnected Events this piece makes use of plaster, cast into my non-recyclable consumer goods packaging collected from the inception of the piece, and into handmade molds constructed from newspaper which is burned off to reveal the objects. The charred molds themselves have become of interest to me and the objects which are cleaned to varying degrees, increasingly reveal traces of their origins.

My process is to slowly separate out the things I need to form my work within the multi-layered context of the world. In my new work I am exploring materials, forms, texts and ideas that address our current environmental peril. At present my concern for planetary distress is growing. I feel compelled to make work that more vividly addresses the ecological destruction of our habitat. It is my hope that this work will encourage us to attend more carefully to all that is taking place around us, and our role in it. 

Karen McCoy

Kansas City, Missouri