Karen Wickham Fine Art
Welcome to my Web site!
I have been both a scientist and an artist, with degrees in Art, Biology
and Chemistry, culminating in a doctorate in Biochemistry from UCLA,
where I later worked as a research scientist and a Merck Scholar. Due
to poor health I left the demands of research. With the encouragement of
my physicist husband, I returned to painting.
I don't find it odd that I am both scientist and artist. There appear to
be great differences between the two disciplines. In science one
persuades through logic and proof, whereas in art it is done through
visual and visceral connections to one's audience. Science strives
towards an absolute, but virtually unattainable truth. True in art is
anything but absolute. It is usually personal.
There are similarities between science and art. Science can be very
rigid, full of rules. The rules box you in but once you master the rules
you can manipulate the box and this is fun. Painting in realism boxes me
in. I like being boxed in, learning the rules and pushing the box. I am
still in the learning phase in art but I can also see the box edge that
I want to attack. Years ago I had worked in a minimalist style where
realism was abstracted until little was left. I do not want to go to
that level of minimalism this time. Instead, I am looking back to an
early understanding I had of painting.
One of my early memories is of accompanying my father to a Van Gogh
exhibit at a San Francisco museum. As he carried me through the
permanent collection, he stopped in front of a Frans Hals portrait of a
barmaid holding a pitcher. She wore a tight bodice over a white blouse,
red cheeks and the familiar features of a Northern European, so like
some faces in my own family. As my father moved me closer to the
painting I saw the face break down into geometric patterns of paint on
canvas. I remember being particularly taken with the rectangle of white
paint representing a highlight on the barmaid's nose. When we moved
back, the illusion of the girl reappeared.
It was magic. I later learned that this is the hallmark of Painterly
Realism. These paintings declare while withholding, combining lucidity
For me, painting is about illusion, and magic. Realism is more than
documentation. Although I've never worked as a truly abstract painter, I
have worked in a more abstract style but always inspired by Nature. I
prefer working in a realistic mode, where the image will break down into
planes and paint strokes if you come too close - like Frans Hals' barmaid. In
fact, my work is best viewed from ten feet away.
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