Shimmering Sound of Silence
Lotte Karlsen’s NYC Solo Exhibition
Thursday September 8 – 24th at Studio 511
West Chelsea Arts Building, 526 West 26th St.
New York, NY
by Katie Cercone
This month at Studio 511, the small project space opened its doors for Norwegian artist Lotte Karlsen’s site specific installation of 241 crystals, what is the artist’s first official solo exhibition in New York City, and the final installment of an arts program connecting female artists from the U.S. and U.K.
As lead artist of Alexandra Arts collective and founder of Pankhurst in the Park, Lotte Karlsen’s long-term, socially-engaged, Arts Council funded work in the UK is a forward-thinking program inspired by Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and aims to promote greater exposure for female artists and their work. Alexandra Arts is a Manchester based non-profit arts collective offering opportunities to international artists including recent participants of the Pankhurst in the Park program Sarah Gavron (director of award-winning 2015 film Suffragette), Go! Push Pops, Legacy Fatale and Bunny Collective. A multifaceted creative working across disciplines, Karlsen considers her leadership role and activities related to Alexandra Arts as one work of social sculpture. Inspired by the critical insight of artist Joseph Beuys among other creative leaders, Karlsen’s consistent output of grassroots, historically-situated, gender and class conscious projects occurring in schools, youth programs, galleries and the park situated adjacent to her Manchester home restores to art a type of total power which has been lost to contemporary society.
Her site-specific installation at Studio 511 titled Shimmering Sound of Silence offers a return to her original medium (Karlsen earned an early degree in glass blowing from the world renowned Swedish Kosta Glass School) and allows viewers to peer into the artist’s recent reflections on why she came to do more socially-engaged work. The official press release suggests that Karlsen’s delicate, glittering installation of crystals refracting every imaginable hue of light (and shadow) addresses the artist’s own shifting relationship to mortality. A closer reading of her artist statement explores in depth Karlsen’s struggle with skin cancer, what led to a deeply transformative period spiritually, physically and emotionally. Lotte remarks that the new work symbolizes a strong urge to “create work that deals with some of the more difficult and darker aspects of my life…through a medium that quite literally shines a light on the more positive outcomes.” In hindsight, she feels her skin cancer offered the ultimate opportunity for a much needed “brutal awakening,” one that set in motion a fundamental shift and a total expansion of Karlsen’s “perceptions about existence.”
In so much that her work with Alexandra Arts amounted to a much needed reconnection with nature and her community, Karlsen draws on the fragility, beauty and luminosity of crystal to express her new found courage to be vulnerable…and heal. A soft gray tracing of Karlsen’s plans for a site-specific sculptural forest garden in Alexandra Park peeks out amidst the lot of rainbow teardrops sprinkling light and shadow against the gallery wall like liquid magic. Remarks the artist, “Redirecting my energy towards others has been a very healing element of this process. In my return to my original medium – glass – I offer a glimpse of my vulnerability, fragility, my light, my love… a reflection of my deep and personal journey into self-expansion.”
In a highly competitive and commercialized industry like art, where working together or calling yourself “feminist” isn’t always a safe or lucrative career move, Karlsen’s insistence on following through with her total vision for integration of self and community feels all encompassing in her radically interdisciplinary work. Her dexterity with the medium of glass and subtle meditation on the nature of life and death promises to shine through in this kinetic, effervescent installation for many moons.