Karen Russo is a figurative ceramic sculptor, living and working in the hills of western Oregon. She uses clay, a medium that comes from the earth, and her art equally to express a deep connection with nature. Her subjects are women from different eras and origins, all exploring feelings of strength, sensuality, and contemplation.
In Karen’s most recent collection of work, “Hope & Despair,” each sculpture responds to a world out of balance. Their bodies — bent arms, backs, and legs — are weighed down by their posture. Floral patterns both obscure and highlight their emotion and spirit. But as women connected by a common thread, their kinship rises above their own isolation. Vulnerability inspires resiliency.
From her studio, Karen follows an art practice of layering materials, textures, and color which she has honed over the years. Beginning with stoneware or earthenware clay, she hand-builds each sculpture from coil, slabs, or from a solid mass of clay. As she works, she constructs an internal armature to support the piece until it's finished. Once the sculpture is fully formed, it is cut into multiple sections, hollowed, and compressed before being reattached.
Patterns and textures are carved and painted onto the surface. Her color palettes are specific to places steeped in nature, ranging from the forests of the Pacific Northwest to the patinated cities of Tuscany. The finished work may have layers of oxide stains, underglazes, clay paint and encaustic wax. The sculpture initially goes through a slow bisque fire that can last as long as a week, and will go through several more firings. Karen may add elements of fiber, metal and other materials before or after a kiln firing, creating a sculpture as multifaceted as the women and nature she emulates.
Karen received a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1982. She also studied in the Masters Program with a concentration in Sculpture at the University of Oregon from 1986 to 1987.
Website Design: Sean Danaher
Portrait Photograph: Dennis Galloway
Copyright 2018: Karen Russo