Emotions on Show | The Artwork of Karen Margolis



Karen Margolis provides emotional states a visible presence with color-encrypted thoughts maps.

by C.J. Kent

KAREN MARGOLIS PLANNED TO BE A RESEARCH SCIENTIST. After learning psychology in school, she pursued a graduate diploma in neuropsychology, however quickly realized that the sector was not for her. It was too limiting. She didn’t decide to a profession in artwork, nonetheless, till the top of her 30s. As she places it, “Going into artwork late meant no expectations.” That insouciance allowed her to do what she liked, even when it would, by some requirements, appear a bit of uncommon.

“My thoughts goes in chaotic instructions,” Margolis says, mentioning two early modern our bodies of labor, one utilizing encaustic and paint on X-rays of embryos, the opposite consisting of sculptures of pores and skin patches. “Nobody favored them,” she admits with amusing; however, she continued to let her concepts roam. She describes her creative improvement as an evolution that reaches again to her youngest years.

Bipolar, from the Molecular sequence
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 14×11)
Dimorphous, from the Molecular sequence
(watercolor and gouache on abaca paper, 14×11)
Blush, from the Molecular sequence
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 14×11)

As a toddler, Margolis used to stare at issues till her imaginative and prescient swam with dots. She realized about molecules of liquids and solids at school, imagining them just like the floaters in her eyes. Sooner or later she discovered reassurance studying Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Portray, through which

he mentions that simply by observing the stains on partitions or the ashes of a fireplace, the artist is stimulated to new discoveries. Right here was proof that another person—one of many biggest of the Previous Masters, no much less—favored to create from the miasma and minutia of expertise. Finally, she would discover that creativeness alone was not adequate, however that might be only one a part of the sluggish development of artistic and mental parts forming her compositional type.

She liked drawing faces as a toddler, and by the point she began talking—considerably later than different kids—she was already rigorously copying fashions from the pictures in Look journal. Years later, when Margolis started learning portraiture on the Artwork College students League in New York Metropolis, she wouldn’t have guessed that she’d ultimately enter a profession in summary artwork. She nonetheless loves conventional portraiture, however her artistic trajectory took the route of inside “portraits” of feelings.

Charting Feelings

Circulation Chart of Feelings IV is the newest iteration of Margolis’ colour chart, used to standardize in addition to encrypt her emotional experiences. Utilizing a Pantone Colour System, she assigns a reproducible colour and identification code to every emotion—seen extra clearly within the element. When making a portray, Margolis consults this chart, translating entries from her journals into encoded colour

Flowchart of Feelings IV
graphite, ink and Pantone colour chips on abaca paper, 35×30

Portray the Unobservable

It was when Margolis took a microscopy course at John Jay School of Felony Justice by means of the New York Microscopical Society that she developed her curiosity in micro- and macroscopic patterns. She acquired an excellent response from some preliminary work in creating visualizations of psychological qualia (subjective psychological experiences), for which she was in a position to make use of her information of the behaviors of neurotransmitters as they reply to numerous chemical stimuli.

She loved creating artwork primarily based on issues that may’t be seen—issues that related together with her longstanding curiosity in feelings, persona issues and the thoughts usually. She’d saved all her psychology books, returning repeatedly to Otto F. Kernberg’s Extreme Persona Issues: Psychotherapeutic Methods. She’d additionally adopted the adjustments to The Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook of Psychological Issues by studying on-line. By 2011, she was making a flowchart of main and minor feelings (see Charting Feelings, above). She discovered, nonetheless, that she needed a extra private involvement. She’d all the time been an avid journal author—that’s the place she data her personal ideas, and though she didn’t wish to share her entries, she realized that she had reams of useful resource materials inside these pages.

From Phrases to Colours

Margolis knew that she was involved in one thing past narrating occasions. The problem was discovering a solution to paint what goes on “beneath.” She requested herself, What does a sense appear like? Her ensuing thoughts maps chronicle interactions throughout the mind throughout varied states of psychological/emotional exercise. Everybody has theirown imaginative and prescient of various emotions; Margolis’ self-appointed job was to create a private, color-encrypted interpreta-tions of the circulation of her personal emotional experiences.

“The colours of the circulation chart have been labored out in order that households and complexes of feelings could possibly be included inside a colour scheme,” says Margolis. Since there are extra different unfavorable feelings, she assigned blue and inexperienced schemes for the large assortment of these emotions. Designating colour households on this approach allowed her to distinguish between unfavorable, optimistic and impartial emotions whereas expressing the great thing about the emotional being in all its states.

Margolis used chips from a Pantone colour system to create her flowchart, which is now in its fourth iteration. “Each time I added a brand new emotion,” says the artist, “I needed to match it into its colour household. I sometimes wait to create a brand new chart till I’ve a variety of new entries, however the unique colour assignments are pretty commonplace by means of all iterations.

Elusive, from the Integrations sequence
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 48×18)
Combustion, from the Integrations sequence
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 48×36)
Pending, from the Integrations sequence
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on paper, 24×18)

When making a portray, Margolis begins with a central black nucleus. “This serves to activate my psychological circulation, along with being symbolic of the unconscious,” she says. “I work with the intricacies of my ideas, emotions and recollections, teasing out threads of non-public that means that I translate into patterns of coloured particles and meticulously apply with a paintbrush.” She works on abaca paper (see On the Floor), wet-on-dry, so she will be able to make colour decisions as she proceeds. For instance, she could go from purple to blue throughout the web page after which, whereas within the technique of portray, resolve whether or not there will probably be a purple. “I do must work one colour into the subsequent and so will con-sequently embrace ‘wayward’ colours,” she explains. She additionally factors out the issue of reproducing Pantone colours.

“With errors in colour mixing, my system is flawed,” says Margolis, “so the works finally are as a lot about inaccuracy and subjectivity as they’re about my feelings.”

“I work with the intricacies of my ideas, emotions and recollections, teasing out threads of non-public that means that I translate into patterns of coloured particles.”

Karen Margolis

The Zen Issue

As a daily practitioner of Zen meditation, Margolis finds that the act of portray typically requires an analogous psychological self-discipline of acknowledging stray ideas in order that she will be able to then allow them to go. “Once I fall right into a state of uncertainty, I create further black nuclei till I achieve entry to my feelings,” she says. Thus, black is a design component that additionally acknowledges the thought technique of portray.

The black nuclei all the time seem as an underlayer—the black dots and white webbing displaying within the areas between the coloured dots. These interstitial areas problem her to replicate on how to slot in one other dot as if it have been a puzzle piece—however one which should additionally go well with the mind-set she’s presenting. Nonetheless, the dimensions of the coloured form doesn’t essentially point out the extent of her emotions. Issues aren’t so proportional. As an artist, she should stay engaged, permitting the portray to radiate, reasonably than forcing it into no matter thought initiated the observe.

Margolis takes a lot inspiration from the circle, which she describes as “essentially the most fundamental element in existence, connecting the microscopic to the universe; it’s a molecule, a neurotransmitter and an enso—a sacred image in Zen Buddhism, embodying perfection and infinity. I’m interested in its mystical components in addition to the paradox of imperfection.” One dot of colour pertains to the subsequent one in her work, and she or he’s all the time making an attempt—however by no means fairly succeed-ing—to make an ideal circle. Beneath a magnifying glass, the dots are all the time a bit of rectangular, a bit of irregular of their shapes.

On the Floor

In 2000, Margolis grew to become a Workspace Program Resident at Dieu Donné, a nonprofit, primarily based within the Brooklyn Navy Yard, that’s devoted to retaining using handmade paper in up to date artwork. Whereas fulfilling her residency, she turn out to be enamored of abaca paper. “Abaca” is the time period for hemp within the Philippines, the place a lot of the fiber is harvested from the stalk of a selected type of banana tree, Musa textilis. Its lengthy fiber will be battered for as much as eight hours, giving it a moist energy that enables artists to govern it simply. It has a excessive translucency however retains adequate chew to make it satisfying to be used with watercolor. Margolis repeatedly makes use of abaca paper for her work and has additionally used it for sculptures composed of paper, linen and wire.

Connecting the Dots

In 2010, Margolis’ painstaking observe led her to make precise holes in her paper floor, incorporating unfavorable area, as seen in Elusive, Combustion and Pending, Anacoluthia and Anomie, all work in her Integration sequence. “In a wrestle between destruction and creation,” Margolis explains, “my art-making includes two distinctly opposing procedures: burning holes in materials as an act of elimination after which developing discrete parts into compositions.”

At one level, whereas engaged on a portray, the paper ripped, and in making an attempt to restore the injury, she launched thread and the idea of stitching paper, colour and ideas collectively. For Anacoluthia, Margolis created a densely express space of black threads; for Anomie the thread creates a lightweight, extra open webbing. The differing results of the 2 works make evident the influence the common-or-garden threads can have.

Anomie, from the Integrations sequence
(watercolor, gouche, thread and map fragments on abaca paper, 14×11)
Anacoluthia, from the Integrations sequence
(watercolor, gouche, thread and map fragments on abaca paper, 14×11)

Making thoughts maps is an train in creating one thing new from some-thing of the previous, on this case, states of thoughts. Constructing on this idea, Margolis typically contains in her work a sprinkling of dot-shaped scraps from outdated highway maps—fragments that turn out to be extra obvious upon shut examination of the works. “I wish to consider the implicit promise of having the ability to discover my approach, as if a map can one way or the other present me the route of my life’s journey,” says Margolis. The artist is aware of, nonetheless that maps are by no means fairly direct. It’s the area between one place and one other that’s so interest-ing—and it’s in getting from one dot to the subsequent that Margolis finds her artwork—and the artwork of dwelling.

Meet the Artist

Karen Margolis

Karen Margolis acquired a B.S. in Psychology from Colorado State College. After transferring to New York Metropolis, she continued her analysis in neuropsychology and took a category in microscopy at John Jay School of Felony Justice. She additionally studied portraiture on the Artwork Pupil’s League and took courses at Parsons Faculty of Design and the Faculty of Visible Arts. Her award-winning artwork observe extends past portray to sculpture, set design and mosaic murals. In 2004, she produced a program for educating artwork to blind and visually impaired youngsters at The Lighthouse Worldwide. In 2014, as a advisor for Artwork Past Sight, she labored with the New York Metropolis Mayor’s Workplace for Folks with Disabilities to arrange occasions for the twenty fifth Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Act.




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