Karen Schremmer’s Art Defies Boundaries
“Think of creativity as a muscle, it needs to be trained and developed to grow stronger. By sitting down and putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, whatever your medium, you’re learning to listen to that artistic voice inside.”
Karen Schremmer is a Florida-based artist whose colorful and complex work draws in the eye and encourages the mind to explore. While many artists excel in more than one art form, they are often labeled under one category. Schremmer wishes to defy boundaries, and collaging allows her to do just that. The 7th Magazine’s blog, Luxury Chapters, talks to Schremmer about creative inspiration and more in this exclusive interview.
- Most of your work uses the collage process. When did you start to collage, and when did you realize that it was the right form for your creative expression?
I started actual collaging in July 2018, I was inspired by David LaChappelle’s Work. It was my way of channeling my inspiration in my own creative way. While answering your question, I realized I’ve been collaging my entire life in one form or another. Often, when I painted murals years ago, I would take an assemblage of photographs and drawings and paint them together to make the design. When I had my own clothing store and painted on clothes, I would take photo transfer, paint from photographs, applique, embroider, and do patchwork as a form of collage. I don’t feel that there is a ‘right’ form for my artistic expression, but collage represents the opportunity to draw from different media and images in a way that feels freest to me. I don’t want to limit myself with a label such as “photographer”, “painter”, “sculptor” etc.
- You’ve stated that you see your collage work as an homage to the photographer who captured the image you cut out. Even the most individual artists are an amalgamation of their idols and inspirations. Would you say that collage is one of the most transparent and honest art forms because it directly displays inspiration?
That’s a very clever way of looking at it, and I think that some people would argue the opposite– if I didn’t take a particular photograph myself, I’m not really doing anything special. If you take the term ‘collage’ more loosely and don’t restrict it to a physical definition, everything is a collage of ideas and inspirations from past artists, even cinema and music. Name a popular musician today that doesn’t regularly sample and remix old tracks.
- Can you describe your creative process for collaging?
I can explain it in terms of one of my current works. I recently met my son’s girlfriend for the first time, she had just returned from Morocco and told me about the synagogues that she saw. I didn’t see any while I was there, so I started researching it, and the first thing that popped up was Berber women in traditional clothing and facial tattoos. This ancient culture was so fascinating, and I began making connections to contemporary women. It’s so interesting how the tribes dispersed through the world and became so very different from one another. I also like to take stereotypes and unflattering things I’ve heard and look at the other side of the words. In this instance, I was thinking of the word “JAP” (Jewish American Princess), which certainly has negative connotations, but stands positively for confident Jewish women who believe in themselves. What’s wrong with a strong woman who knows what she wants? Where there were facial tattoos in the old pictures, in mine they will be done on my subject in rhinestones, taking looked-down-upon facial tattoos and turning them into a beautiful embellishment.
- You often blend modern, digital imagery with historical images—such as you did with Winston Churchill. What draws you to pairing the old and the new together?
At first, I enjoyed “old subjects” because I had the full picture of a person’s life, and could examine how contemporary views of their life and deeds changed over time. Old movies interest me because of the different themes and views of history. The older, therefore closer to the source I can go, the more unadulterated the viewpoints are. Some things never change, and the people and their messages remain relevant today. Taking parts from different time periods is also another layer to my collage.
- The beauty of Florida is inspirational to you, and it shows in your vibrant color palette and use of wildlife in your collages. Do you think your art would transform if you left Florida, or is it that the aesthetic of Florida is in line with your personal aesthetic?
Even though I wasn’t born in Florida, it is the only place that has ever felt like home. I am Florida and Florida is me. One collage I did, ‘Florivada’ was made from photographs that I took in the Nevada desert. Although I tried to make something with more arid and western aesthetic, I couldn’t, hence the name. To me, beauty is inspirational: flowers, sunshine, animals, any type of nature. It might simply be the abundance of these things in Florida that lead to my feelings of comfort and inspiration.
- It’s apparent that you’ve found a strong creative aesthetic. What was the process of finding your creative voice like, and how do you see it evolving?
The reality is not so exciting; I simply don’t think and let forth anything that needs to come out. Consciously trying to create is somewhat of a struggle for me. Simply working, pure action, leads to my best creating. Just start doing and let the rest come after.
The evolution is a natural process, as I continue creating I continue to develop new curiosities and appreciate new aesthetics. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever fall into a more distinct style, but my need to experiment with new ideas, mediums, and techniques keeps my work fresh and allows me to continue expressing.
- What advice would you give to those who are still trying to find their artistic voice?
Work. More work. Then work some more. I’ve given friends this same advice and they’ve started making great things and head down different pathways. Think of creativity as a muscle, it needs to be trained and developed to grow stronger. By sitting down and putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, whatever your medium, you’re learning to listen to that artistic voice inside. Also, don’t be afraid to make something bad, I’ve made tons of bad things! Many times I don’t even show anyone. But a few months later some may come back up and as I’ve grown I will be able to pull it all together and figure out what it needed because my creative and technical skills have grown.
Karen Schremmer’s work is a reminder to not limit your self-expression. Work hard, create freely, and eventually, all of the pieces will fall into a beautiful place.