Karen Kraven

Artists in Residence
01.11.2015 - 30.11.2015

Lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Her recent solo exhibitions include the ICA at the Maine College of Art, Portland, ME (2015); Darling Foundry, Montreal (2014) and Mercer Union, Toronto (2015). Reviews of her works have been published in Canadian Art Magazine and Artforum. Karen has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Quebec Council for the Arts as well as a fellowship from the Dale & Nick Tedeschi Foundation. She is represented by Parisian Laundry in Montreal.

Karen is inspired by the clothing and accessories that athletes and spectators wear. She is attracted to the patterns in a flurry of basketball players, the competition of their bright jerseys and the distracting crowds, waving scarves in the background of the free throw line or the wavy, moiré pattern from an announcer wearing a striped shirt. Like Harlequin, whose role in Comedia del Arte was to distract, the costumes of athletes, spectators and sportsman are distinctly designed to standout like a bird of paradise, but also to camouflage each individual, like in a flock of birds. These flashy markings emphasize speed and movement of the body, while potentially distracting an opponent’s eye.

In her work, Karen has been making handmade fishing nets, photographing mesh sports fabric and stretching spandex fabric stretched over partial body forms. She has also been making sculptures of gymnastics costumes and horse race lady hats. Her main interest is the gender politics of sports clothing, and the latent sexuality embedded in how much or how little is covered up as well as the tight or loose opposition when fabrics and garments are viewed as a second skin.

The artist’s research lately has been focused on early sports costumes, designed by constructivist artist Varvara Stepanova, who exaggerated and abstracted the appearance of movement of the body, by using geometric forms and lines, like racing stripes. She has also been researching the surrealist fashion designer Elsa Schiaperelli, who designed the famous shoe hat and lobster dress.

After an open call led by Canadian institution Diagonale, with the support of Le Conseil des Arts Montreal, Karen was selected and commissioned to join Despina Residency Programme. While in Rio de Janeiro, she was interested in the history of textile design in Brazil and in the use of recycled materials in handmade textiles, rugs and bags. She also collected different kinds of fabrics found in local shops around the SAARA commercial area and created sculptures from combining these materials.

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