Everyone knows what toilet paper is, but how many have examined the delicate and beautiful pattern that is printed on it? Moreover, is there something that this pattern reveals about the society we live in? Are there things in front of us that we scarcely notice and yet are essential to how we think and feel?
My work is a frequent re-engagement of such ubiquitous or overlooked materials—toilet paper, vintage toys, makeup—as well as appropriated text and images from advertising and media. I look to reframe these messages, often with humor, to show the absurdity and unnatural expectations that society has come to accept as ordinary. Definitions of femininity and gender are in constant flux, and never more so than they are today. My drawings, collages, paintings, tracings and transfers are an essential and urgent exploration of the volatile nature of sexuality. These are not abstract concepts but rather lived ones: the middle-class daughter of grade school teachers, my childhood was limited by received roles, and many of my own dreams went unrealized.
Through transforming these materials, I am able to rewrite some of the past—and present—and demystify those nostalgic and unconscious tropes we have about society and femininity.
To read more about Karen's work visit her website below.
Opening & Art Talk - Nov 12, 2016
When I visited Karen Mainenti’s Brooklyn studio earlier this year, the first thing that caught my eye in her jewel-box workspace was the toilet paper.
Pinned into place, like rare specimens of delicate fabric, framed under glass, and mounted on the wall were 25 squares of TP that Karen has collected from around the world. Entitled "Works on (Toilet) Paper," the collection exemplifies what I love about Karen's work: the combination of exquisite beauty and sly humor that seduces you into reconsidering the conventions of femininity — and misogyny — in the ordinary objects, accessories, and images that surround us.
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