Karen Kilimnik draws parallel references between historic works from the 16th century and contemporary consumer culture. She unearths romantic traditions, creating imaginative paintings, drawings, photographs and installations that span interests as diverse as animals, childhood, ballet, fashion, witchcraft, famous films, literature, landscape and dreams.Read More
Kilimnik is known to be a recluse. Instead of manoeuvring the social pressures that come with life in a large city, she chooses to remain in her hometown of Philadelphia, where she completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1984 at Temple University.
While Kilimnik works across a variety of media, her style does not remain singular. Through photography she is known to explore the natural world, focusing on landscapes and animals. Her traditional oil paintings, on the other hand, reflect her interest in the past. These paintings are often assemblages of loose brushstrokes and feature uncanny portraits of iconic figures, cut out from a scene in a film or appropriated from a famous painting.
Kilimnik is also known to produce oil landscape paintings or set-ups of architectural interiors such as Leonardo Da Vinci's Living Room, Amboise 1500 (2014). A mise-en-scène approach is used in her assemblage sculpture as well, where she brings seemingly random items from popular culture together in one space. These installations often mimic stately homes or palatial architecture. Part of the 1990s 'scatter movement', the pieces of detritus included in these installations—photocopies, pieces of fabric, drawings, furniture and mirrors—brought Kilimnik fame in the 1980s and 1990s.
Kilimnik's work is known for its whimsical approach. However, this approach is mixed with sharp and relevant themes including feminism, psychology and identity. Blurring glamour and kitsch, and bordering on the unsettling, Kilimnik's works have been the subject of numerous solo shows in countries such as France and Ireland, and cities such as Philadelphia, Zurich, London and New York.
Jessica Douglas | Ocula | 2017