I’m so pleased to share the first Artist/Mother interview of 2020 with you all! This episode features Karen Dana, one of the winners from the 2019 Artist/Mother open call (you can see her polyptych here!). I had the opportunity to connect with Dana at the Artist/Mother meetup in Chicago (where she is currently based), and I was thrilled to get to continue our conversation on the podcast.
Karen Dana received a BFA from the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City and an MFA from Hunter College in New York City. In the last couple of years, Karen had her third child and relocated from New York to Chicago, where she is a BOLT resident with the Chicago Artists Coalition for 2019-2020. While Karen works primarily in painting, her work is informed by a variety of media including performance, dance, and collage. The role of gesture in such practices is “translated” by Karen to the canvas, as is a sense of movement — be it at the level of the individual body, between bodies, or across borders.
In this episode, Karen and I discuss the roles of identity, narrative, and community in being an artist/mother. She probes the grey areas of experience, identity, and the function of art while both generating and reconstructing intergenerational familial knowledge in her art. Karen talks about the importance of visual and material cultures in the legacies of her family’s identity — from her grandparents, whose oral histories Karen and her siblings recorded in a notebook, to her three children, whose creations continue to inspire Karen’s own. Additionally, we confront the complications of making art today, as art and the experiences that drive it are threatened in different ways by the contemporary American political climate. Nonetheless, we agree that art remains an important conduit for curiosity, growth, and knowledge.