Karen Margolis is a multidisciplinary artist based in New York City. Her artworks are based on her own thoughts and emotions while encouraging the viewers to take the journey of exploring her inner world with her.
Margolis received her B.S. in Psychology at Colorado State University, however, art has always been something she did for herself and not for anyone else. While studying for her graduate degree in neuropsychology, she also studied portraiture at the Art Students League in New York City. According to Margolis, she recalls going through magazines with large, close-up photos of models on the cover as a child. With a crayon on her hand, she would attempt to mimic the image as closely as possible.
Similar to her Synthetic Garden that focuses on her inner thoughts, Margolis created a series based on her emotions called Integration. The Integration series are all about capturing her emotional reaction about that particular moment using colors. On top of various color schemes based on her emotions, circles played a predominant role in the series, which can also be seen in her other works of art. According to Margolis, whether molecular like biological cells or cosmic, a circle surrounds us all and it represents infinity. In Buddhism, circles, also known as Enzo or Zen circles, are sacred symbols such as the circle of togetherness, connections or beauty of imperfections. In Margolis’s Integration series, she would burn holes, creating imperfect circles, emphasizing the beauty of imperfections.
It was no surprise that she initially thought to pursue portraiture. However, while taking a course in microscopy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Margolis stated that it changed her way of approaching art by looking internally and going to the molecular part of being a human.Initially, I was particularly drawn toward her Synthetic Garden piece. It was vibrantly colorful, as if I were stepping into another fantastical world. Looking from afar, I had an inkling within me of wanting to touch the artwork itself. For some odd reason in my head, it reminded me of the texture of cotton candy; a soft, freshly mowed lawn; or bubbles floating away. It is like the child in me was awakened by my own imagination.
For Margolis, Synthetic Garden is all about her own thoughts, having an inner monologue in her head. She described it as scuba diving in her own mind and discovering new things as you explore deeper. The more I learn about this piece, the more I appreciate and know Margolis’s own creative process. In this piece, she repurposed certain items from a different piece of artwork. She described it as “a complete projection of [herself]” reliving her life through art, like the wires used for this piece that were once an illustration of her thoughts and emotions. The wires used in the piece are the internal part that holds the piece together. It reminds me of the veins, arteries, and capillaries found in our bodies that help keep us alive and moving—the wires give life to the piece itself. Interestingly, there are certain items, such as the rubber duck or a blue pill, that seem quirky or out of place. These items caught Margolis’s eyes during her regular walks to her studio and she described these items as “rescuing abandoned things,” giving them a home and purpose, like Neverland for the Lost Boys.
At the same time, maps also play a vital role in her artworks. Maps are known to be guides to help lost travelers go from one place to another. It helps us locate our physical self in a place of the unknown. However, in Margolis’s artworks, maps go beyond the physical locations, “they personify inner journeys and states of mind.” For Margolis, maps also locate where we are mentally, as if we are lost in our thoughts. Maps are all over her artworks because she is constantly traveling, putting her internal thoughts and emotions in every piece she creates. Overall, Margolis wants her artworks to showcase her own journey, and we asthe viewers are encouraged to travel alongside her and join her through the journey of life.
Besides being an artist, Margolis admitted how she wanted to be more involved in the community. In the past, she had an amazing opportunity to teach visually impaired teenagers about art at The Lighthouse International in New York City. Despite these teens' impairments, she encouraged them to express their own thoughts and emotions through art. It was inspiring to hear her talk about this experience as she was incredibly passionate about it. Her own works of art are truly a reflection of herself—vibrantly colorful and inviting, just as her personality.
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