Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

East Neighborhood: Christopher Mir & Karen Dow

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
East Neighborhood: Christopher Mir & Karen Dow
Oct. 22, 2006.

(Note: Somehow, this post written last week was never posted. So I'm going ahead and posting it now. HH)

Last stop of the day was at the home of Christopher Mir and Karen Dow. Their shared studio is in a freestanding building behind the house. Dow had a solo show last month at the Bellwether Gallery in New York City. Mir is finishing up a series called Second Sight for a solo show that will open at the Rare Gallery in NYC on Nov. 11.

He has seven done and plans to do two smaller ones this week.

"There is only room for six paintings. But I want some extras for the rack, and some to choose from when arranging the show because you never know how they will play in the big white cube," he told me.

Mir said his subject matter has intrigued him since high school. He is interested in "dreamscapes like a natural history diorama—but with a lot of room for play. It's the Garden of Eden or the Apocalypse."

"The bulk of the Western painting tradition has been figures and the landscape. What can I add to that mix?" said Mir.

He starts with the landscape and then adds characters, drawing on some basic archetypes. There is the Venus or Demeter goddess figure. Primal man "like a Jesus/hippie/Charles Manson guy" or an aboriginal man. A warrior. Mother and child. "There's a spirit guide or animal in pretty much every painting," said Mir. For themes, Mir mines anthropology, myth and mysticism, poetry and Biblical imagery.

"There has to be a technological menace," He said, pointing to an SUV entering one image. "An SUV coming in, or power lines or a corporate headquarters." Fears of global warming or the fragility of the world. Or, conversely, "something magical—crystals."

I was intrigued by the way out plants in the painting "Second Sight." Were they a particular type of plant, I wondered, or something he conjured in his imagination? It is a cactus forest in Madagascar, according to Mir.

"There all from photographs that I find. I'm mining the image world all the time," he said. He buys a lot of coffee table books on national parks and uses Google image search. In fact, typing the phrase "twisty tree" into Google turned up an image that became the centerpiece of the painting "Mortal Mirror."

Dow also works from images. She paints seemingly abstract geometric forms in acrylic on wood panel. I've always liked her paintings but never really "got" them until I spoke with her this past Sunday. She looks for photos in design magazines, often of interior spaces. She then "flattens out" the space.

"It's like a still life but I'm not setting up the still life. I'm finding it," Dow explained. She takes "compositional cues and palette cues" from the images. By way of example, she shows me a magazine image of a girl in a red tunic and white skirt. When I look at a postcard of the painting derived from the photograph, I see the reference.

And this is one of the things I like most about CWOS—the opportunity to talk with artists about their inspiration and approach and gain a deeper appreciation of their art.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karen Dow is my printmaking teacher. She is awesome~!!

6:28 PM


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