Date posted: March 28, 2011
|“I have an affinity for found objects and found spaces. It seems to me a creative plus to utilize objects in the environments of my own Found Spaces such as broken and discarded objects or transform the space with my Paper Environments.”.
Mollyne Karnofsky, Open Deck, City is Situ, 2007. Mixed media and paper, 11 x 14 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Mollyne Karnofsky, Open Deck, My Chinatown, 2007. Mixed media on paper, 11 x 14 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Mollyne Karnofsky, interviewed by Leah Oates
Leah Oates: What is your background and what is your progression as an artist? Were there other artists in your family?
Mollyne Karnofsky: Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1932, my childhood was filled with wonderful memories. I grew up in the city, in a raised bungalow with a yard, which became a playground for all the neighborhood children. My environment included a menagerie: a pony, a goat, a monkey, a baby alligator, a rooster and a chicken coop, a Pekinese and a Cocker Spaniel. I planted a Victory Garden with tall bean stalks, tomatoes, and greens.
I loved to draw, make paper dolls, play in the mud, clay and make plaster forms. But I had no notion to call myself an artist and had no formal art training until adulthood. Probably the most fun I had with plaster then was when I helped my family and neighborhood friends build an above and below ground swimming pool in the rear of my yard.
LH: Please describe the material you use and why you use them. For instance, you created an installation at PS1 in the Coal Bin in the basement. Why was coal an important material to work with for you? Please describe other more recent series as they relate to materials and processes.
MK: I applied for a Special Project at PS1 in 1978 with photos of my Paper Environment at the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans. PS1 selected the Coal Bin for me. The space itself and anything in it were raw materials. Since I loved challenges and was inspired by the black coal deposits on the red brick walls, I welcomed the invitation. A curved metal tool for incising, a boxed of fat oil sticks, and anything left in the space were my tools. I have an affinity for found objects and found spaces. It seems to me a creative plus to utilize objects in the environments of my own found spaces such as broken and discarded objects or transform the space with my paper environments.
Although I am principally an abstract artist, nature is a factor in much of my work in different ways. Here, in my New York City studio yard, while drying my Time Puzzle Series, the clear, high viscosity acrylic changed texture through the changes in weather. Sometimes it wrinkled as if it were human skin, at other times it assumed a mosaic quality. I added to these mixed media paintings, broken pieces of wire, and other debris. These “Time Puzzles” of 2004-2009 continue to keep me wondering.
Continuing my exploration of special use of paper, it has evolved from the early paper environments through various stages. Currently, my Shreds, 2010-11 are composed of individual, whimsical forms created from shredded paper cartons. They fill up a room.
In combination they form a playful, in your face, participatory piece the audience can not avoid. They hang from the ceilings and walls and oops! If you run into it some may become floor pieces.
LH: Who are your favorite artists and how have they influenced you?
MK: I think because I like the idea of fractured parts and his varied use of media, Picasso has always been one of my favorites. When I saw the large Ruben’s paintings in Europe, I developed a surprised appreciation of his work. You could walk up and get close to a corner of his paintings. His brushwork was loose and resembled abstract expressionism.
In Ravena, Italy, the paintings on church walls were aged and cracked. Yet, I found them more beautiful than if they had been freshly painted. You may find this condition of art in places of worship all over the world.
Overall, I learned in my study and travels, some very early art throughout time has more elements of modernity than is usually expected. I guess that is why Picasso, also, respected that.
The walls of my New Orleans loft were plastered over brick. Some of the plaster had broken and I saw the exposed brick form a skull, as some broken plaster remained. The wall did the first step for me. It set a tone for my wall drawing: The Spirit of New Orleans.