September 3, 2010 - Karen Champlin and I joined the IUOMA about three months ago, only days apart if not on the same day. She was one of my first friends, and it has been a joy watching her art evolve and blossom. I saw her earliest pieces as posts on this site. My first reaction was that they were assemblages of objects found in her daily existence, and she had a special eye for textures. They have and always have had for me a distinctly three-dimensional quality too.
Yet what she is doing is hardly random. For instance the bit of red screen in the piece above is representative of one strand of imagery that runs consistently through her art. When I try to make sense for myself what an artist is doing across their work, I start by looking for things like repeating image patterns. They often emerge without the creator being aware of it at all, out of the subconscious. Seeing Karen's work only through scans, I thought they were much larger. Somehow she has managed to take things that would require another artist to use a large canvas and condense them into a form that meets the requirements of mail art.
I was particularly excited when Karen began incorporating text in various ways. As you might expect, there is a vibrant visual poetry contingent at the IUOMA; and it finds its way into the mailart of people here working in diverse areas. There is a great deal of cross-pollination, it seems. (I recently learned that a lot of the shorthand I use for literary jargon was coined by poet Ron Silliman: vispo (visual poetry), langpo (L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry), pomo (postmodernism), post avant (post-avant garde). Our own Jim Leftwich seems to have invented trashpo. And Lord forbid, I am just waiting for some joker to start talking about fluxpo (fluxus poetry). Anyway, being a huge vispo fan, I am always asking Karen to send me her newest work when ever she achieves some breakthrough. Having to seriously think about challenges vispoets are dealing with when looking at a painting by IUOMA member Cheryl Penn, I see so much is focused on layering: how much? how little? do it at all? A lot of talk about layering. Karen Champlin is definitely a member of the deep-layering school. I had also wanted to talk about the clearly religious nature of the works above, but this is becoming danerously like an essay.
My photos are by Temporary Amnesia & Not Me due to some technical glitches. Grigori Antonin has posted some much better detail shots of Karen's work on his blog. See Grigori's September 4, 2010 entry for the pics.
I will conclude with another two pieces by Karen Champlin:
I don't usually do this, but on this occasion here is something made specailly for my dear friend Karen Champlin: