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Karen Starrett
Ocean, NJ

Artwork Details
Oil and Wax
48" x 43"

Art has been Karen Starrett’s companion and soul mate throughout her life. To her, painting is a spiritual activity. Dur¬ing her 25-year career as a graphic designer, she worked as a community arts volun¬teer and art educator, while creating her mixed media artwork. In 2003, Karen Starrett's life changed; she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She resigned from the stresses (and pleasures) of her graphic design business. As part of her physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery, Starrett became a full-time studio artist. Her art switched from mixed media to body-centered painting. Starrett states, “I found my voice in painting. Painting became my vessel to carry my cancer-afflicted body to recovery.”


Through this work she explored concepts that seem to be opposites in the human experience: birth/death, loss/reconnection, happiness/depression, and acceptance/rejection. This exploration became an exhibit of 18 paintings called Figurative Testimonials: A Visual Chronicle of a Survivor’s Journey. See the entire series of work at heal¬ In 2009, Starrett is cancer free and has expanded her style from figurative to abstract expressionist. Her paintings are striking. Rich color and organic compositions imply struggle and joy. Her forms are containers of energy- tumultuous, waiting, effusive, and thinking.


Starrett’s artwork is created on 400 lb Artistco paper, which she nails onto the wall of her studio. The stability of the surface frees her to exert pressure and scrape, knowing the surface is secure. After sizing the paper, she then coats it with an encaustic wax formula. She heats the wax formula and quickly brushes it on the paper, then quickly and lightly scrapes it. As she moves the paint across the surface, Starrett says “the shapes intuitively unfold in spontaneous gestures”.


Starrett’s recent solo exhibitions include Johnson & Johnson World Gallery, New Brunswick and the Mattison Gallery in Asbury Park. Her work has won Best in Show twice at the Monmouth County Arts Council’s Juried Art Show. Starrett’s work has been featured in national pub¬lications. Starrett is a graduate of Rutgers University and an alumnus of The School of Visual Arts. Starrett continues to study with artist Grace Graupe-Pillard at the Monmouth County Painting Workshop.