Abstract painter Karen Stastny, from New Orleans, lives summers at Biltmore Lake where she breathes her surroundings into her work. Her paintings are chock-full of sweeping plains of color and energetic lines. Created as a conversation between color, composition, mark-making and shape, her work is both personal and investigative.
Looking deeply at her abstracts, you’ll see her inspiration from mountainous Asheville as well as the waters surrounding New Orleans. Both cities are reflected in Stastny’s lively mark-making and their natural environments are revealed in both tonal range and composition.
“I love the process of painting. It is a dialogue,” Stastny says of her creation process.” In the beginning, I am never sure where the painting will end up. I might have my ideas, but at some point, the painting starts to assert itself. Then the conversation really gets interesting.”
Stastny is an excellent listener, as she allows the painting to dictate where it wants to go. Sometimes a lack of planning can lead to an amazing outcome, at least when it comes to painting.
In a Sand Hill Artists Collective + Artsville Collective’s interview with Stastny, she shares her advice for emerging artists and how her artwork has changed through the years.
Tell us about your inspiration for the work in “In Living Color: At Home with Paint, Paper, and Thread.”
Karen Stastny: Recently, in my paintings, I have tried to focus on my two loves, color and line. I respond to the emotive quality of color and to the spontaneous, lyrical quality of line, mark making. I love to draw and I never feel like my paintings are alive until line can come dance through the work...and color! I can just lose myself in color. Trying to marry my exploration of line and color to evoke an emotional response was really my inspiration for this exhibit.
How do you feel when you sell a piece of artwork?
KS: I feel great! It validates that someone liked it, and I have managed to make a connection with that client. It also means I have money to buy more paint!
I should say that I have also had paintings that have never found a home, and that’s ok too. It’s part of the process of creating, and putting work out there, and as an artist I have to recognize and understand that.
How has your artwork changed through the years?
KS: I started off doing realistic watercolor. My work has always had a gestural element to it, even when realistic. At that time, I preferred doing paintings of people, rather than landscapes. I also ran a figure studio for about 12 years. I love drawing the figure. At some point I began to be bored with just visually representing a subject and started paying attention to what really inspired me. I began trying to work abstractly by using my figure drawings as a basis and coloring outside the lines! It was fun, and I was interested! That was the beginning of a very long journey.
Is creating a joyful process for you? Do you find it challenging?
KS: You have to trust the process. You have to be willing to take risks. You have to be willing to experiment and play. You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to pick yourself up and go at it again. You have to be attentive to what the painting is telling you. Is it joyful? Sometimes. Is it challenging? Yes, and I am so grateful and blessed to be doing this.
What is a piece of advice that you would give other emerging artists?
KS: Be generous with and support your fellow artists. Take classes, take workshops, absorb as much as you can. Go to galleries, museums, read books, keep learning. Be present, pay attention to what moves you, inspires you. Trust the process. Trust yourself.
What is your favorite part of being in the “In Living Color” show?
KS: I am very happy to have an exhibit up in Asheville. I also really wanted to support the work being done by Sand Hill Artists Collective whose gallery is Artsville Collective at Marquee in the River Arts District. I am very impressed by and appreciative of all their community outreach and hard work to make Artsville outstanding and different.
How does Asheville influence your work?
KS: We usually spend spring and summer in Asheville then go back to New Orleans for the rest of the year. The Asheville landscape has an impact on me. It is different in texture, scale and color, and I love it. I could not get the beauty of the Asheville rhododendrons out of my head. They are spectacular! So their general shape, texture and glorious color became the subject of my newer pieces. I think it’s just the beginning of some interesting explorations.
Stastny’s work is on view until July 24 at Artsville Collective in Marquee the RAD as a part of the “In Living Color: At Home with Paint, Paper, and Thread” exhibition. Other guest artists include Betsy Meyer, textiles and Michelle D. Wise, mixed media.
Stastny has also been an active member of Biltmore Lake Artists. More information may be found at https://sandhillartists.com/featured-artists-2/.
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