How did you get into making art?
I was fortunate to grow up in a home with parents who were very artistic and creative people. Making things was normal. For many years I focused on black and white photography and gum bichromate printing. I explored collage independently, but my mentor Debbi Pendel introduced me to a methodology that liberated me from my perfectionist inhibitions. I learned how to use my imperfect works of drawing, painting and photography to create something new that perfectly expressed my ideas and emotions.
What are you currently working on?
I have recently created several new works related to my Covid series. These pieces are more hopeful and less ominous. I am also revisiting three dimensional works. Working on assemblages presents a new challenge and a different way of using collage. These new works represent ideas that have been simmering for a long time.
These assemblages provide a needed moment of reflection and transition.
What inspired you to get started on this body of work?
The assemblage works are a refreshing transition from my Covid Series, which chronicled the pandemic from March 2020 until the end of the year. My creative vision was strongly influenced by the pandemic. Now that a vaccine allows us to carefully resume some of our previous activities, I am finding balance between my inner life and the outer world. These assemblages provide a needed moment of reflection and transition.
Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?
I do both. I take a broad approach to my work in that it always reflects my personal experience as a Jewish woman, mother, wife and a feminist. Those roles color the lens through which I see the world. I may rely on specific symbolism in my works, but I intend them as metaphors for universal emotions and meaning. I find that I work best by defining specific projects and committing myself to see them through to conclusion.
What’s a typical day like in your studio?
When I am involved in a project or a piece I am busy with the making. If I’m stuck I may start a new piece. Sometimes I need to procrastinate and then I will make paper or other materials for my collages to free up new ideas. Cleaning up my work space is also a good way to recharge. I often find inspiration looking at art books, reading novels, poetry, the news, psalms and proverbs (especially no. 33 A Woman of Valor).
Who are your favorite artists?
My favorites are usually those that I’ve looked at most recently, whether I have sought them out for inspiration for a new project or I just happened to see their work at a gallery or museum. Most recently I have been revisiting Arthur Szyk, Masaaccio, Alice Neel, Marc Chagall, Raphael, Mary Cassat, Raphael Soyer, Daumier, Breugel, Vuillard and The Limbourg Brothers.
Where do you go to discover new artists?
I live outside New Haven, CT, and close to NYC. New Haven has a rich art scene and many working artists. Artspace New Haven is a wonderful way to see new works by local artists. I am a frequent visitor to The Yale University Art Gallery which is a jewel box of a museum and the Yale Center for British Art. I visit museums and galleries in NYC and whenever I travel the museums and galleries are a priority. Instagram has become a great place to meet and communicate with contemporary artists, especially since COVID. Of course, the Hopper Prize website.
Karen Kassap is an artist based in Woodbridge who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist: