"Penitence" installation at The Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
"Penitence" is a mixed-medium installation piece that I created in 2016 for The Women and Money Project exhibition at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A video monitor displays the 3-minute video of a woman scrubbing handwritten words from a scrap of bed sheet. Overhead hang nine starched men's white shirts. I covered the entire surface of the laundry tub with hand-grated Ivory Soap flakes. The aroma of the soap permeates the space. The scrap of fabric is draped over the sink, with faded, yet legible handwriting.
"Penitence" is an allegory of washing away memories of a woman's belief that she is trapped in an abusive relationship because she fears she is incapable of financially supporting herself and her son. It serves as a metaphor for the lifetimes of women's unpaid and undervalued domestic labor.
"Flora" in progress-1
Symbolic of creative energy, healing, and fertility, Flora honors my grandmothers who worked the land alongside their husbands and children to sustain their families and bring grace and beauty into the world.
Women are gaining acceptance and recognition as warriors, scientists, politicians, and spiritual and intellectual leaders. However, women continue to be marginalized, objectified, and at times demonized by dominant patriarchal cultures. This contemporary Flora is inspired by essentialist feminist theory and my life experiences as a woman. I honor all of the women who have fought against misogyny and those who continue to work to gain equality for all genders. My vision is to challenge prevalent gender bias and pose questions about trust and tolerance in our culture.
Flora was exhibited in "Stepping Back, Looking Forward: Honoring Feminist Vision" (interview by Michaela Chorn) at MCAD Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota January-February 2016. Cover photo and feature article by Norma Smith Olson, “The Evolution of a Mythology: Artist Karen Wilcox Reimagines the Creation of the Universe from the Female Perspective,” Minnesota Women’s Press, March 2016.
"The Seer" Green (detail)
The Seer is one element of an ongoing series of life size busts cast from a single mold of my original hand-built clay sculpture. I combine feminine and masculine facial structure and characteristics into The Seer, and although they are all cast from the same mold, viewers often project their own perceptions of race, gender, and personality traits onto each Seer.
Painted in layers of acrylic and oil, I use the rich palette of human skin tones, individually separating hues into variations of primary and secondary colors: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and violet.
"The Seer" has appeared at The Conduit Gallery, Minneapolis, MN in "The Seer:Open to Question" and the Catherine G. Murphy “Within the Myth: Gendered Perceptions”
Karen Wilcox draws upon ancient writings, religious icons and sacred spaces to offer a dreamlike journey through feminine and masculine mythology. Within the Myth: Gendered Perceptions explores how masculine language, symbol, and myth affect our perceptions of gender.
Aloof yet compassionate, situated above eye level on six-foot high ladders, The Seers offer a collective wisdom of human experience. I ask visitors to leave anonymous comments or questions addressed to The Seers.
The Seer is the sage, the oracle, the elder, the healer. A vessel of human experience, The Seer is open to question.
I work with a variety of sculptural techniques including modeling, mold making, and bronze casting. I begin building form with oil-based clay over a wire armature. I enjoy working with clay and wax because it is both an additive and subtractive process. After the basic form is finished, I make a multiple-part mold, then pour a wax pattern for bronze casting. For some pieces, I alter the pattern to create several variations off of the same mold to cast one-of-a kind sculptures.
To create work in multiple or a series, I use the same technique to create a wax pattern. I then make a flexible production mold for casting plaster or Hydrocal, a white gypsum cement. After several days or weeks of curing, the white, chalky surface will accept a variety of media, including graphite, watercolor, acrylic, and oil paint.
Serpent 1 (front view)
4” x 3” x 3” each, mixed medium on cast Hydrocal
My creative process becomes ritualistic and meditative throughout the pouring, curing, and hand finishing of each piece.
I cast each “Muse” by hand in Hydrocal from a mold I have taken from my original clay sculpture. After several weeks of curing, I finish each piece with oil and acrylic paint. Each “Muse” is unique and designed to hang alone or in groupings directly on the wall or on a customized base. A selection of finishes is available. Without direct reference to specific gender or race, “Muse” represents individual and collective inspiration and dialog of inner wisdom. "Muse" has shown in several public exhibitions, most notably "Art on the Plains XI", Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND.
The white chalky surface of the “Musing” sculptures evokes meditation, hovering somewhere between the conscious and subconscious, or the transition between life and death. Hung randomly on the wall in a grid formation, the symbolic graphite drawings generate a silent dialog of chance associations and multiple meanings.
I have always been interested in language and how semantics influence our perceptions and behavior. I have adapted many of the "Musings" drawings from various historical and cultural resources. One of my main influences is The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects by Barbara G. Walker. In her extensive analysis, Walker uncovers ancient feminine symbolism that has been usurped by patriarchy.