There is more to Karen Lehrer’s art than what initially meets the eye. At first glance, there are shapes; geometric patterns, stripes, and texture (which harken back to her early days as a textile designer and stylist), but look closer and you begin to see the many layers that lie beneath the surface. These layers draw the viewer in to discover each shape, color, and pattern contained therein – These elements creating the artist’s own personal and symbolic vocabulary. We spoke with Karen to learn more about these works and her artistic path (interview below):
MG: What medium do you work with?
KL: I use acrylic paints and mediums on wood panels. Some paintings include collage, which I think gives mystery and texture to my paintings. I paint on wood because I do a lot of sanding and gouging with various tools. You just can’t do that on canvas.
MG: What do you like most about working with this media?
KL: Acrylic dries fast, and I often use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. I also like the fact that acrylic cleans up with water, and not toxic chemicals.
MG: What inspires you most?
KL: I am inspired by textures and colors in the natural world. A bright lime green of lichen on a rock which I saw in the mountains, or creamy natural colors seen on beach rocks when I’m walking my dog. I can be inspired by anything which catches my eye.
I’m very inspired by eroded surfaces. The textures of rusted, or weathered metal, wood, or peeling paint, and the resulting patterns and colors are naturally beautiful to me.
MG: What artists inspire you?
KL: Wassily Kandinsky, Richard Diebenkorn, Antoni Tapis, Joseph Cornell, The Bauhaus and Russian Constructivist movements, to name a few.
MG: What are your hobbies (besides art)?
KL: I love to ski more than anything else, which is challenging as I live in Santa Barbara, CA. Travel is very important to me, and I like having a trip planned to look forward to. I enjoy working out, gardening, and cooking when I’m in the mood. Sometimes I make jewelry, or play around with other creative endeavors.
MG: Describe your workspace:
KL: I’ve had several studios over the years. My current studio is in an old bakery building the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara, CA. There are a few other artists in the building, which is great. I enjoy the camaraderie of other being around other creative people. I am so lucky to have a nice space with plenty of room to work for now. Unfortunately the owner is going to tear down the building in the next couple years.
MG: How many years have you been an artist?
KL: I’ve been doing art my entire life. In an earlier career, I worked in the fabric business as a textile designer. I think my current paintings are influenced by my design background.
MG: What jobs have you done besides being an artist?
KL: My first career out of design school was in the textile business. I was a designer, stylist and buyer working on a national level for a Fortune 500 company. I traveled to New York frequently at that time which was very exciting.
Later, I returned to school and eventually became a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT) in the state of California. Currently I’m not practicing, as I’m spending more time on my art career. I enjoy working with people, especially creative individuals, as I understand creative personality types firsthand.
I’ve taught art workshops, which incorporate both art and psychology, and I’ve been an adjunct instructor on the Graduate level. I’ve also supervised interns at a local counseling center.
MG: If you were not an artist what would you do?
KL: Psychotherapist, see above
MG: What is your dream project?
KL: I would love to do commissions for hotels, interior design, that sort of thing.
MG: Is there a painting or project that you are especially proud of?
KL: I am especially proud of Hidden Treasure I & II (add link)
MG: What is your favorite color?
KL: My favorite colors personally are oranges, and purples, however I don’t use those colors much in my paintings.