Interview with Karen Banker
What was the driving force that pushed you into becoming a professional artist?
I always wanted to be a professional artist, yet I did not always see this as a possibility when I was younger. Though I entered and won my first art contest in 7th grade, I came from a family of medicine, where science and math were highly regarded, and because of my aptitude, I excelled in both of these subjects, and thus my art pursuits were delayed. But in the end my passion for creating art overrode my endeavors in the corporate world. The transition was seamless, really, as creating art was natural to me. It was at this point that I realized that I could not, not do art. It burns within me, constantly pulling me in its direction even when the “easier” life of working 9 to 5 calls my name.
What inspires you, lately, in your works...and why?
My most recent work is about the resilience of the human spirit in times of adversity, personal hardship and illness. I find it amazing how people from all walks of life handle and overcome serious setbacks, tragedies, and challenges - the majority of time resulting from circumstances outside of their control – like cancer, loss of a job, change in a personal relationship. But what I find astounding is that the human spirit continues to persevere and overcome what may at times seem impossible to overcome. In the midst of all the chaos, the sadness, and the pain, hope is ever present, if only a glimmer, a dim light. The human spirit is so incredibly strong. My work explores the tenacity of the human spirit and the tandem partnership it has with the human soul. In my current work, I attempt to convey a visual message to those who believe hope may have abandoned them. My work is to let them know it has not.
Describe your process in creating art
I like to work fast with intermittent periods of rest and reflection. I begin with a thought or feeling or emotion in mind, not what the final painting will look like necessarily, but more of what I want the piece to convey. I begin to layer the canvas with washes and glazes and begin to build up multiple layers of paint. At times, I work mixed media into the piece to further build up the deep layering of my work and to add texture. At this point and after much reflection, I hone in on specific areas of the painting and begin my detail work. As each section of the painting is completed, I work on creating additional depth and focus on elements designed to make the viewer’s eye move around the canvas. At times, I will scar the painting by sanding it or gouging it with a sharp tool. At other times, I use repeated glazing techniques to soften an area or at times, the entire piece. I repeat this process over and over again, until I sense the painting is near completion. I then step away from the canvas, lay down my brushes and sit in an old, tattered, rattan chair in the far corner of my studio at which point I quietly listen. And when I hear the painting tell me it’s finished, I stop, at which point I scribe whatever thought or thoughts are walking through my mind at the time onto a scrap piece of paper. I call these final thoughts my “stream of consciousness” and they quite accurately reflect what the painting is about and what it has to say.
What is a favorite art work that you have done and why? What prompted you to create it?
I have many favorites as they all speak to me at various levels. If I had to choose however, one in particular currently stands out to me at this time. It is entitled “Power”, a deeply saturated red, black and turquoise painting. In the weeks prior to starting this painting I found myself getting more and more frustrated with what I was hearing on the news – segments about members of congress battling, leaders of nations blasting, even local couples having domestic friction. And I thought the power for change, the power to change, begins with the power and ability to be heard. But no one was listening. And therefore, there was nothing but the creation of useless noise. No one held the power to be heard. The power to make real, positive change or the power to command peace. So, I picked up my brush and I began to paint. I created the painting in a way that demanded attention – with its deep saturation of color – yet I pared back the composition to reflect a very minimal stance to represent peace. The power to be heard does not necessarily mean speaking the loudest, which is what I was seeing on the news. Rather, the power to be heard and therefore the power to facilitate positive change come from the ability to be respected. My hope is that someone is listening.
What are common themes that run through your work?
My work centers on self-discovery and being true to ourselves. A common theme in my work is the use of deeply saturated colors – a visual language I see for passion and deep emotion. Another theme in my work relates to the multiple layers of texture I use, thus representing the hidden details of life and its mystery, along with the secret desires to explore and get to know our souls. And finally a third theme runs through my work and that is depth. Beneath each layer of paint, beneath each layer of texture, something new appears just as it does when we take the time to peel back the layers of ourselves and discover who we really are.
"Like" Karen Banker Fine Art Facebook Page