Pulp Fictions

Tortured emotions in portraits of pulp

From OrlandoCityBeat.com, November 2, 2004

Karen Carasik has a lot to say with her art, but what she says is not as memorable as how she says it. Her unique, handmade paper canvasses, on which she literally spreads her humanistic views, are sometimes thought-provoking but more often leave the viewer with only a vague idea of what she is trying to convey.

In Pulp Fictions, the new exhibit at Logan’s Bistro, Carasik creates expressionist paintings by taking cotton, abaca and kozo fibers and literally beating them to a pulp. Without the use of brushes, she then takes pigments and spreads them on the paper to express what she describes as a combination of Eastern philosophy and Midwestern pragmatism.

Despite some eye-grabbing use of color and interesting – sometimes tortured – human forms, the poorly lit art battles for attention with the bar itself. While the paper-and-pigment images certainly enhance the eating establishment, the bistro makes it difficult to appreciate Carasik’s message, which, thanks in part to the vague and formless nature of some of her pieces, doesn’t leave a lasting impression. In addition, six of the 15 works are in the dim, back hallway, with one of the largest pieces often obscured by the kitchen door.

The strongest and most emotional work is He Saw Nothing, an Edvard Munch-like vision of human distress. The purple, open mouth and blue cheeks communicate not the mad anger of The Scream but a more haunting, quiet shock. We don’t know what the figure has seen or experienced, and we are not sure we want to know.

The main room’s largest and most dominant piece is Taking on the World, a swirling and beautiful vision of the world from outer space. Waves of light blue convey the oceans, while oranges and browns suggest land. In addition, puffy, pulpy whites bring to life the clouds. But despite the soothing quality of the composition, there is something slightly askew and therefore disturbing about this and all of Carasik’s work.

Although the artist is at her best when concentrating on human figures, as with the merging of two alien-like, oval forms in Couple, she is clearly fascinated with the idea of “home.” In several works, she takes a simple image of a house and throws it into an unfamiliar and chaotic world. In Red Door, she uses color, or lack of it, to create a menacing and mysterious environment, while Bungalow, though mediocre, attracts attention through its out-of-place and unexplainable streak or purple pigment.

Carasik says she wants to encourage visual literacy through her expressionistic narratives, and in two or three works, she does. But she needs to both develop her more simplistic images into more powerful, lasting visions and transform her more abstract pieces into more communicative and powerful stories.