Some of this is life that feels like work and a lot of this is work that feels like life and I’m never really sure which of it is ever even in balance anyway. Sometimes I think time was invented so we don’t explode from it all happening at once.
Karen Merritt is a downeast Maine-based artist and writer who focuses on the quiet interactions and unexpected beauty of urban environments. Her photographic work is an exploration of the details – a gesture, a juxtaposition, an unexpected framing – and the ways in which a sensation can be built from what is seen and how we reflect and are, in turn, reflected. Sometimes the most revelatory component of an image, after all, is in the shadow that passes behind us. As a photographer, Karen shoots with a medium format film camera. As a street artist, she is interested in community and messaging and the ways in which art allows us to see ourselves in each other and each other in ourselves. Karen’s work has appeared collaboratively on city walls, in galleries, as stock, in print and on-line. When she’s not making art, Karen is a writer, engineer, community health advocate and engineering instructor.
2018 Rebel Blend Fund Grant – Intersection (1 in 5 | 1 in 2)
2017-2018 Armin E. Elsaesser Fellowship – The Mines
2017 CSA(II) – Art|Farm Collaboration (Harlow Gallery; Hallowell, ME)
Street art | Graphic arts
- 1 in 5 | 1 in 2 (Intersection) (2019 – ongoing) – street art for community engagement around public health, substance use, resource access, identity, safety & stigma.
- all y’all (2015) – Community portraits as exploration of inclusivity (paste-up).
- cityDrift (2014) – Self-Arrest – Installation used an open-ended alley to address stigma, addiction and recovery (collaborative paste-up with resource links).
- Art Truck (2013) – visual|interactive 1-night show of street portraits in a non-gallery space. Visitors invited to take images from the show throughout the evening.
- Tag[G]alle[r]y (2013) – Outreach-focused street tag project – images addressed themes of gender identity|inclusivity with links to resources.
- 30 days|Half-life (2012 – 2013) – multi-media exploration of street art tags; creation and photographing of tags + video of tags weathering | removal | tagging over.
- Tag[G]alle[r]y (2012) – Outreach-focused street tag project – images addressed themes of cancer treatment with links to resources.
Photo-documentary | Street photography
- BeSpoke (2019) – stock images for The Art of the Bicycle
- [Clark x Salem] (2018) – Image series – urban gardens
- CSA II (2017) – Art|Farm collaboration – art inspired by life, work, and the land on Maine farms (collaboration through Harlow Gallery, Hallowell, ME).
- StreetGods (2014 – 2017) – Wings, stars and light – that unexpected holy.
- Arcana (2013 – 2016) – Images explored symbolism of the Tarot Major Arcana through street interactions & reflections in Portland, Maine.
- Quiet Ones (2013 – 2014) – Window-shop wigs; evolving Portland and the source – both in the locale and the market.
- the girl who (2012 – 2013) – Images and text series explored self-identity and versions of the ‘truth’ of fear and freedom.
- Havana (2012) – Images explored contemporary urban culture in Havana, Cuba.
- Portrait (2010 – 2013) – Go for a walk, share a conversation, take a picture or don’t; unlearn time, relearn wandering. Trust that leaving an office was the right thing to do.
Writing | Creative or Research
- Pocket Full of 9Vs | Spirit Level (2017 – 2019) – technical | creative collaborative
- Elsaesser Fellowship (2017 – 2018) – history and legacy of mercury and silver mining in Latin America (public health project ongoing).
(gelatin silver print with stencil | ink 2011; digital composition | collage 2019)