Let’s be honest: even though we are taking an American pop culture as a joke, we are still secretly enjoying it. Otherwise, where these amazingly high TV ratings of gossip show and soap operas are coming from? And it is important that modern artists also recognize this trend and bring into their works ideas about the Illness of 21st century, celebrity gossip addiction. One of such artists is the Art Sprinter finalist Karen KK Clardy, who covers celebrity gossip with oil on canvas, using her incredible sense of humor.
Please introduce yourself to The Art Sprinter Blog readers.
Hi! I am Karen Childress Clardy (friends and family call me KK). I live in Greenville, South Carolina with my wonderful husband and three beautiful children. I was 12 when I started painting in oils. Immediately, I fell in love with the medium and dreamed of becoming an artist. I majored in art in at Furman University, obtained a Gemologist Degree from Gemological Institute of America and then Jewelers School to become a metalsmith master.
For 20 years, I owned a custom design jewelry business, “Childress Jewelers.” Three years ago I closed my business and began my career as a painter. Woo Hoo!
Are you excited about being selected as a finalist of The Art Sprinter? How does it feel to know that you will be presenting your painting in the Hamptons, well-known center of culture and arts?
I’m so excited and honored! I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make talented new friends in such a gorgeous place. I love the energy and dynamics of those already chosen for the show. I know it is going to be an amazing event and feel very fortunate to have been chosen.
From your experience, do you think that art contests are helpful for artists?
Absolutely! It provides a venue to place yourself in front of so many new people and look for those who resonate with your work. I have had incredible experiences this year in Miami and Brooklyn and all because I took a chance and entered a contest.
What would you advise the artists who are thinking about participating in The Art Sprinter competition?
When you are an emerging artist, applying for shows can be intimidating but you never know what will happen unless you try. I am a living example.
Why did you select pop culture as an object of you art. Why is it important for you?
I am fascinated by celebrity culture! Truly, I am not really pushing against anything but accepting it all for what it is! I can watch Kardashian or Real Housewives marathon with my jaw hitting the floor and not feel too bad about it! Haha!
I love poking a little fun at celebrity culture in my paintings, but also studying it and appreciating it for the fiction of how the celebrity reality is portrayed.
The majority of the portraits that you have submitted for the Art Sprinter competition cover hip-hop celebrities. Do you personally like hip-hop culture or is there another reason for that?
I love hip-hop and all music, not drive by shootings! The celebrities I portray I admire as artists. I love the absolute freedom they have in expressing themselves and they are rewarded financially for being outrageous! What’s not to love?
Celebrities you paint most of the time are featured in connection to food or eating. Is that a metaphor of the mass-culture we are all consciously or unconsciously consuming? Please explain.
I think it could be interpreted as a metaphor for what we are consciously or unconsciously consuming as well as for what is being shoved down our throats. For me personally it has to do with the ideals, values, standards that are force fed to me either by my immediate local culture or mass culture and the constant vigil it takes in order to determine what it is I truly believe. There is also a reference to the American love/hate relationship with food as the struggle to be thin and beautiful; it consumes us!
Which medium are you using and why? Is there a future for the medium you are currently using?
I use oil on canvas because it is like going home for me. It is what I used as a child and therefore everything about it… the smell, the feel… all bring back floods of memories. With such a strong past, I think there will always be room for oils.
Nowadays celebrities come and go: faces are changing so fast, that people can’t remember names and faces of recent celebrities. In this connection, why do you think your art will stay in history.
I am not using the images to represent the celebrity. I am using it as a metaphor to represent myself.
What is your relation to mass culture? Obviously, this topic is very important for you. The question is why and what is in it that is important for you?
I think there is a propensity to become a “lotus eater “and I think true artists, even the ones I portray, transcend this penchant. However, do these artists become the ones that feed us the lotus???
I find it sad that feminism is still an issue, and that women are still struggling for equality.
How can you characterize the style of you art?
To me, they are painted collages. I am combining advertisements from “perfect” moral, racist, chauvinist era and juxtaposing these celebrities who have ultimate freedom in their art and their lives. It is also the dichotomy of who I am as a person. I was raised in a small, southern-traditional town. I value fun, hip-hop, and free spirit!
Is being and artist your profession or hobby? If it is a profession, what is your professional goal as an artist?
Art is my profession and my goal is to show it as much as possible, to have people resonate with the true nature of what I am creating.
How many hours a day do you spend on creating artworks? What is the most comfortable environment to create art for you?
Not enough hours and sometimes too many hours. The irony is that I have to be quiet and listen to music without words because if I listen to hip hop or pop I can’t concentrate. I just want to dance.
I am a white, southern woman painting hip-hop artists listening to classical music. How crazy is that?
What inspires you as an artist? Who is your favorite artist and why? Any masters in particular that you enjoy?
My family, humor, music inspires me. Gloria Steinem inspires me. Claes Oldenburg, Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, Hannah Wilke, Cindy Sherman, Alice Aycock, Sarah Maple… Botticelli, Matisse… the list is too long!
What would you tell other aspiring painters, any advice?
Create what is in your heart and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks!