ART BEAT – OOE Artist Feature: Karen Goetzinger, Abstract Painter Inspiring Human Connection

Tanis Browning-Shelp

While out for a walk in the early days of the COVID19 pandemic, professional mixed media artist Karen Goetzinger noticed that people were being friendlier than usual. “This was when we were getting the very first messages about social distancing,” Goetzinger explains. “Almost everybody who passed me on the street greeted me with an enthusiastic ‘good morning,’ and I thought it was awesome. Clearly, people wanted contact!”

More recently, however, she has noticed a big change. “People now regard me with a kind of wariness…like they’re wondering if I’m a walking germ bag,” she says.

Goetzinger understands. These are difficult times. But the desire for contact or connection lies at the core of her art. “I believe that most humans desire connection, but that they are often too busy in their day-to-day lives, or too inundated with a barrage of negativity, to make that kind of meaningful human contact.”

She recognizes that abstract art can be misunderstood. “When I first began doing abstract painting, I knew that I was limiting my audience,” she says. “Most people relate more to art that pictures something. But I love the idea of a person standing in front of a piece of my art and discovering it for themselves—seeing what it brings up for them—without giving them literal references.”

Despite Appearances There Was a Lightness in Her Step 41.5” x 52.5” (157 x 112 cm) - acrylic, ink, graphite, oil pastel Image by Karen Goetzinger

Despite Appearances There Was a Lightness in Her Step 41.5” x 52.5” (157 x 112 cm) – acrylic, ink, graphite, oil pastel Image by Karen Goetzinger

When people say: “But it doesn’t look like anything!” Goetzinger responds: “You’re absolutely right!” Her work is completely emotion-based. When she approaches a blank canvas, she thinks of an object, moment, or event and then lets herself feel the emotions associated with the memory. “My choices in the areas of colour, mark-making, and composition are designed to express the emotions that I am feeling. The smallest, simplest event can inspire my work.”

Goetzinger shares the inspiration for one of her paintings. “Every Sunday morning at eight o’clock on our way to church, we would see an elderly woman walking with a three-pronged cane. We would see her no matter the weather; I always wondered where she was going. My painting ‘Despite Appearances There Was a Lightness in Her Step’ was inspired by her. I used pinky coral and lavender tones to invoke her softer more feminine aspects. I used black, royal blue, and teal to express her strength bending over that cane. And I used yellow to express the joy and conviction of ‘getting out and going’ despite appearing to be old and frail.”

Goetzinger points out that a person could view that same painting, read its title and tell her (as some people did at the opening of her exhibition “Beauty in the Inconsequential” at the Shenkman Arts Centre in January): “I know what the title says, but this is what it does for me…”

“That’s my biggest hope,” she says. “That that’s what will happen when a person views one of my paintings. They will stop, take a second look, and think of their own memories/stories or contemplate a simple pleasure…maybe find value in what may have at first seemed inconsequential but is essential to the human experience. Imagine what simple beauty is waiting to be discovered each day if we stop and look.”

Tempest 40” x 50” (102 x 127 cm) - acrylic, ink, graphite, oil pastel. Image by Karen Goetzinger

Tempest
40” x 50” (102 x 127 cm) – acrylic, ink, graphite, oil pastel. Image by Karen Goetzinger

She also hopes that people will find their way back to those early moments of the pandemic when they found themselves reaching out to make genuine contact with others. She believes that people crave art, even in troubling times. “Look at the boxes of books people ordered from Black Squirrel when our bookstores and coffee shops were closed.”

Goetzinger has a small studio at home. Now that she paints on such large canvases, she can only work on one painting at a time in her small space. “I’ve often thought that I’d like a bigger studio, but I could never afford one. But in this climate, I am loving my studio and am thankful for it!”

[Karen Goetzinger (http://www.karengoetzinger.com) holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fashion Design with an emphasis in Fine Arts from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Her work is exhibited by public and commercial galleries throughout North America and has been shown in exhibition spaces in China and Australia. It hangs in both private and corporate collections internationally. In the greater Ottawa area, her works can be found at General Fine Craft in Almonte, the Ottawa Art Gallery Galerie Annexe, and Santini Gallery.]

Author Tanis Browning-Shelp (http://www.browning-shelp.com) pens her Maryn O’Brien Young Adult Fiction series, published by Dog-Eared Books, from her home in Old Ottawa East. Contact tanis@browning-shelp.com if you have information about artists or art events that you believe would enrich our community members’ lives.

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