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 finding out psychology in faculty, she pursued a graduate diploma in neuropsychology, however quickly realized that the sphere was not for her. It was too limiting. She didn’t decide to a profession in artwork, nonetheless, till the tip of her 30s. As she places it, “Going into artwork late meant no expectations.” That insouciance allowed her to do what she cherished, even when it’d, by some requirements, appear a little bit 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 appreciated them,” she admits with amusing; nonetheless, she continued to let her concepts roam. She describes her inventive improvement as an evolution that reaches again to her youngest years.

Bipolar, from the Molecular collection
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 14×11)
Dimorphous, from the Molecular collection
(watercolor and gouache on abaca paper, 14×11)
Blush, from the Molecular collection
(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 in class, imagining them just like the floaters in her eyes. In some unspecified time in the future she discovered reassurance studying Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Portray, by which

he mentions that simply by observing the stains on partitions or the ashes of a hearth, 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—appreciated to create from the miasma and minutia of expertise. Finally, she would discover that creativeness alone was not adequate, however that may be only one a part of the gradual building of artistic and mental parts forming her compositional type.

She cherished drawing faces as a toddler, and by the point she began talking—considerably later than different youngsters—she was already rigorously copying fashions from the pictures in Look journal. Years later, when Margolis started finding out 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 course of interior “portraits” of feelings.

Charting Feelings

Circulate Chart of Feelings IV is the most recent 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 Prison Justice by the New York Microscopical Society that she developed her curiosity in micro- and macroscopic patterns. She received a very good 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 data of the behaviors of neurotransmitters as they reply to varied chemical stimuli.

She loved creating artwork primarily based on issues that may’t be seen—issues that linked along with her longstanding curiosity in feelings, character issues and the thoughts on the whole. She’d stored all her psychology books, returning often to Otto F. Kernberg’s Extreme Persona Problems: Psychotherapeutic Methods. She’d additionally adopted the adjustments to The Diagnostic and Statistical Handbook of Psychological Problems 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 non-public ideas, and though she didn’t need 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 curious about one thing past narrating occasions. The problem was discovering a option to paint what goes on “beneath.” She requested herself, What does a sense appear like? Her ensuing thoughts maps chronicle interactions inside the mind throughout numerous 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 stream of her personal emotional experiences.

“The colours of the stream chart had been labored out in order that households and complexes of feelings may very well be included inside a colour scheme,” says Margolis. Since there are extra diversified unfavourable feelings, she assigned blue and inexperienced schemes for the extensive assortment of these emotions. Designating colour households on this approach allowed her to distinguish between unfavourable, 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 usually wait to create a brand new chart till I’ve numerous new entries, however the authentic colour assignments are pretty customary by all iterations.

Elusive, from the Integrations collection
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 48×18)
Combustion, from the Integrations collection
(watercolor, gouache and map fragments on abaca paper, 48×36)
Pending, from the Integrations collection
(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 stream, along with being symbolic of the unconscious,” she says. “I work with the intricacies of my ideas, emotions and recollections, teasing out threads of private 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 make colour selections as she proceeds. For instance, she could go from purple to blue throughout the web page after which, whereas within the means of portray, resolve whether or not there might 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 in the end 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 private 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 usually requires an identical psychological self-discipline of acknowledging stray ideas in order that she will then allow them to go. “Once I fall right into a state of uncertainty, I create extra black nuclei till I achieve entry to my feelings,” she says. Thus, black is a design component that additionally acknowledges the thought means of portray.

The black nuclei all the time seem as an underlayer—the black dots and white webbing exhibiting within the areas between the coloured dots. These interstitial areas problem her to mirror on how to slot in one other dot as if it had been a puzzle piece—however one which should additionally swimsuit the mind-set she’s presenting. Nonetheless, the scale 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, moderately than forcing it into no matter thought initiated the apply.

Margolis takes a lot inspiration from the circle, which she describes as “probably 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 parts 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. Below a magnifying glass, the dots are all the time a little bit rectangular, a little bit 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 the usage of handmade paper in up to date artwork. Whereas fulfilling her residency, she change into 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 form of banana tree, Musa textilis. Its lengthy fiber could be battered for as much as eight hours, giving it a moist energy that permits artists to govern it simply. It has a excessive translucency however retains adequate chunk to make it satisfying to be used with watercolor. Margolis often 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 apply led her to make precise holes in her paper floor, incorporating unfavourable area, as seen in Elusive, Combustion and Pending, Anacoluthia and Anomie, all work in her Integration collection. “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 specific space of black threads; for Anomie the thread creates a light-weight, 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 collection
(watercolor, gouche, thread and map fragments on abaca paper, 14×11)
Anacoluthia, from the Integrations collection
(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 usually consists of in her work a sprinkling of dot-shaped scraps from outdated highway maps—fragments that change into extra obvious upon shut examination of the works. “I need to consider the implicit promise of with 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 residing.

Meet the Artist

Karen Margolis

Karen Margolis obtained 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 Prison Justice. She additionally studied portraiture on the Artwork Scholar’s League and took courses at Parsons Faculty of Design and the Faculty of Visible Arts. Her award-winning artwork apply 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 guide for Artwork Past Sight, she labored with the New York Metropolis Mayor’s Workplace for Folks with Disabilities to prepare occasions for the twenty fifth Anniversary of the People with Disabilities Act.




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