Karen West – Karen West Gallery
“I guess you can say that I have always been a bit of an explorer,” explains oil painter Karen West, who makes her debut with the Chatham Artist Guild at the Chatham Studio Tour in December 2019.
Born in New York City and later living in the bedroom suburb of Westfield, New Jersey (her father worked on Wall Street), Karen took off for California at a very early age for adventure. She resumed her education at Boston University, earning a degree in Journalism and Political Science. “Then I was off traveling again in Europe and Asia for several years, which included months of Himalaya trekking and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, before continuing my education at Harvard Law School.”
Over the years, West served in a number of meaningful legal positions, including at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at a major Wall Street law firm, as Deputy Director of Financial Sector Legal Reform in Russia right after the fall of the Soviet Union, and as provider of support to projects in developing countries at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation in DC. “This work gave me the opportunity to travel and experience people and places all over the world, especially developing countries, which held a great interest for me,” Karen emphasizes.
In 2003, she and her husband Herb moved to this area where she served as General Counsel of a North Carolina cabinet agency. She then began to take her long-term interest in painting more seriously. “I felt the need to balance the left side of my brain which was engaged in legal pursuits, with the joy I felt engaging in the right brain activity of painting, and certain images that had remained with me for years, from my travels, were calling to me for expression.”
West’s remembrances are delightfully captured in her luminous oil paintings. “I am drawn to photograph people and their relationship to their distinctive environments, in activities that are meaningful to them. I seek to capture their unique expression of universal emotions such as joy, wonder, dedication, defiance, pride, and passion.”
Living in Chatham County is now providing new perspectives and inspirations for West’s art. “I am seeing different images and interactions to capture on canvas,” she says. In addition to my paintings of people, I paint still lifes, landscapes, animals and other images that strike me because of a compelling composition or pattern, light/shadow and color congruence and which draw the eye because of artistic harmony.
She was immediately drawn to oils as a medium, after a brief trial with acrylics. “I just love the ways oils respond and the luminous look that they allow me to attain,” she explains. West’s training includes Studio Incamminati with Lea Wright, Stephen Early, Natalie Italiano, Leona Shanks, JaFang Lu and Robin Frey; The Frank Covino Academy of Art; Smithsonian Institute (Trinka Margua Simon); Washington Studio School; Sadie Valeri; Mark Carder; Dominic Vignola; Timothy Tyler; James Sulkowski; Dan Nelson; Paul McCormick, and many visits to museums around the world.
“I like people who see my work to contemplate what is behind a painting…or to even develop their own theories about the meaning,” Karen stresses. “What story are my subjects trying to tell? — What thoughts and emotions do they provoke?”
West’s prices range from $5 for notecards to $5000 for large scale canvases. You can see her work in her beautiful studio and gallery in Fearrington Village and on her website: http://www.karenwestgallery.com.
Karen West is a featured new artist during the first two weekends in December on the 2019 Chatham Studio Tour.