For much of Karen Justis’ life, she worked in the fields of dance, vocal music, and interior design. After taking a leap and enrolling in the San Francisco Art Institute in California, she began exploring deeper creative expression through abstract expressionism and pop art in painting and drawing.
Aesthetically, Justis often utilizes words in combination with dynamic and explosive color. Sometimes, the painted or drawn words are clearly legible, other times the words are hidden. Justis’ work starts a conversation with viewers in topics ranging from local and global politics, popular media and entertainment, healthcare, education, and even sports. Her hybrid artistic expression of lettering and color provides an outlet to grapple with and overcome provocative concepts such as power, injustice, patriarchy, sexism, and elitism.
Justis states, “Using explosive color and powerful words, often I become fully immersed in the moment and cannot recall exact decisions and junctures on the path to completion.” Sometimes she thinks a piece is finished, only to come back days or weeks later when she feels compelled to add more layers of color, text, or even combine other pieces.
Early works commonly contain cursive text on paper using graphite, pen, acrylic, and rapid repetition. Later creations consistently incorporate colorful words and abstract expression on a duralene surface; this material is a matte, paper-like film which can be transparent. The duralene transparency allows for versatility, where the art can be viewed from both sides, and multiple pieces can be layered to enhance effect.
Many of Justis’ works can be viewed in different orientation – shifting it 90 or 180 or even 270 degrees – which alters the effect and can capture a more attractive look for an individual viewer. Recent works employ canvas, as well as claybord flat and cradled panels. Media ranges from graphite, charcoal, chalk-pastel coloring pencils, oil pastels, oil crayons, acrylic ink, and acrylic paint.
In her artistic and personal journey, she seeks to embody the mystical Phoenix, spreading growth, freedom, and beauty. In her own words:
“Expressing my voice and creativity through art is a phenomenal, ever-evolving exploration. I truly hope that the force of creativity in my works is inspiring.” - Karen Justis
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