Karen Lederer's paintings reference everything from pets to politics

12 March 2018

“I am endlessly interested in the tropes of still life painting,” artist Karen Lederer tells It’s Nice That. As a result of Karen’s object focused fascination, the artist has endlessly inspired us too with her paintings which present the ordinary, from pairs of Converse to bottled fizzy drinks, in a vivid style using a hyperreal colour palette.

Each of the objects, animals or references portrayed in Karen’s works are there for a carefully considered reason. For instance, a regular occurrence in her pieces is the placement of “historical artworks beside contemporary objects,” Karen explains. “In Contact, a Pablo Picasso sculpture locks eyes with a fish in a bowl,” which in turn present her painting’s aim to “capture a sense of longing for connection”.

As well as everyday or historical art references, Karen’s recent pieces also reflect the political climate she’s experiencing as an American artist. “In the current state of politics, individuals are closed off from one another in their different bubbles,” she says. A number of her paintings display this in a direct way. Take Karen’s artwork As Usual for instance, where a woman is sporting a T-shirt which reads “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” and behind her a poster from the political art collective Bread and Puppet hangs in the upper left corner, Karen points out.

The artist’s interpretations of American politics have also led her to find a new muse: pets. The “cloistering” of different communities built the artist’s interest in pets saying “ these animals live with us, but are also separate from us,” she explains. “Sometimes they even thrive in a different habitat, like a fish bowl or turtle tank. I’ve lived with a dog for the first time in my life this past year and I can’t stop making paintings of him!”

Since we last wrote about Karen’s paintings, the artist has expanded the remit of tools she uses. Growing in detail, and more “rendered than in the past,” the artist has been using “coloured pencil in addition to marker, paint and printed stencils,” she says. Consequently, her pieces include far more pattern work, delicately depicting the bubbles at the bottom of a fish bowl or a cardigan someone is wearing, in tangible textures.

Karen’s array of paintings will be displayed in a number of exhibitions this year, offering the opportunity to see her work up close. These include a solo show of her pet paintings at Tennis Elbow in Williamsburg, Brooklyn opening 24 March, and a group show Chromalicious, at Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington, Massachusetts from 5 May.


Karen Lederer: Contact


Karen Lederer: Crush


Karen Lederer: Jack


Karen Lederer: Low Branch


Karen Lederer: Narcissus


Karen Lederer: Oranges for William


Karen Lederer: Snake Oil


Karen Lederer: Wallflower

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.


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