Featured Artist Karen Hackenberg

Artist Karen Hackenberg’s lighthearted yet impactful eco-conscious paintings highlight the overwhelming problem of ocean detritus. Learn more about her by visiting her website.

 

“Hook, Line and Sinker” Oil on Canvas, 24” x 24”by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Hook, Line and Sinker” Oil on Canvas, 24” x 24”

 

In my ongoing painting series, I present a darkly humorous taxonomy of imaginary post-consumer sea life of the future. Working traditionally with oil and gouache, I craft beautiful images of conventionally ugly beach flotsam set amidst an otherwise pristine seascape, and aim to create a provocative visual juxtaposition of form and idea.

 

“Arctic Thirst” Gouache on Paper, 15” x 10”by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Arctic Thirst” Gouache on Paper, 15” x 10”

 

My paintings are inspired by the incongruity of the man-made detritus I find washed up on the shores below my studio in Washington State—plastic shards and tattered bags, mismatched running shoes, foggy plastic water bottles, throwaway lighters, frayed lengths of nylon rope, and spent shotgun shells, to name but a few.

 

“Fossil Feud” Oil on Canvas, 22” x 28” by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Fossil Feud” Oil on Canvas, 22” x 28”

 

I collect this local flotsam as it bobs in on the waves from far and near, and with my ear to the sand for a close view, I pose and photograph it on the beach where it strands. The resulting seascape compositions depict the beach trash as monolithic, thereby providing a visual metaphor for the overwhelming magnitude of the issue of marine debris.

 

“Have an Ice Day” Oil on Canvas, 72” x 60” by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Have an Ice Day” Oil on Canvas, 72” x 60”

 

For example, the large-scale oil painting, Have an Ice Day, depicts a tattered plastic party ice bag sporting the cartoonish graphic of a polar bear floating in limbo over the sea, jauntily telling us to have a nice day. The party ice in this bag has long since vanished, just as the ice cubes illustrated on the bag are melting out from under the sunglass-clad ice-bear as he poignantly waves goodbye; a parting metaphor for mass extinction in the warming and disappearing habitats of the globe.

 

“Manifest Destiny” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 24”by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Manifest Destiny” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 24”

 

As one of twenty-four Northwest artists, my work was chosen for inclusion in the 2016 Northwest Art Now exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum, which highlighted the intersection of identity, social justice, and the environment.

 

“Sea Stack” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 72” by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Sea Stack” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 72”

 

For my 2015 solo show, Watershed at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, I exhibited my beach trash paintings along with the flotsam that inspired them. My recent group exhibitions include, Neo Naturalists at the Museum of Northwest Art, Stilleven: Contemporary Still Life at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, and Beneath the Surface: Rediscovering a World Worth Conserving at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC.

 

“Stranded Vessel” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 24”by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Stranded Vessel” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 24”

 

My work has traveled for three years in the museum exhibition, Environmental Impact, curated by David J. Wagner, and will be included in the encore edition of this traveling exhibition premiering in 2019.

 

“The Floating World” Oil on Canvas, 60” x 72” by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“The Floating World” Oil on Canvas, 60” x 72”

 

The green sensibility of my work has earned a place in numerous private and permanent public collections including the Portland Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Washington State Public Art Collection, the New York State Museum, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

 

“Holy Water” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 72” by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

“Holy Water” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 72”

 

My essay, The Unshakeable Habit of Noticing, and my paintings about art and environment are currently featured on the MAHB (The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere) blog at Stanford University.

 

Artist Karen Hackenberg with “Inukshuk” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 72” by artist Karen Hackenberg. See her portfolio by visiting www.ArtsyShark.com

Artist Karen Hackenberg with “Inukshuk” Oil on Canvas, 36” x 72”

 

A Washington State, Artist Trust, GAP grant helped me to turn my Watershed painting series into a limited edition artist book, designed by Marquand Editions in Seattle, WA, and handmade at Paper Hammer in Tieton, WA.

 

Artist Karen Hackenberg invites you to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Comments

  1. Strong stuff on many different, important levels. Congratulations on your many successes, with best wishes for the future.

    • Thank you, James! And also for your comments via email about the similarity of some my painting compositions to those of Georgia Okeeffe. Glad my work struck a chord for you. 🙂

  2. Karen, amazing work that until now I haven’t seen. Keep it going!

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