Karen Wickham Fine Art

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About Me
Urban Landscapes
Landscapes 1
Landscapes 2
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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 with mystery.
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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This site was last updated 07/04/10