The Art of Karen Lebergott
Through my paintings, I seek to re-contextualize and question the notions of fact-based historical events and immutable cultural identity. Histories provide the backbone for my work, but recreating history is often problematic as well as futile. Memory and fact are slippery concepts that continually evolve; my paintings exemplify the transitive nature of memory and factual information. The surface may be reworked and is often covered over many times, visually mimicking the effort to capture memory, efforts marked through indecision, elision and fragmentation.My work is also concerned with the layering of cultures, populations and the languages they use. Through mapping conventions in the layers of my paintings
and work on paper, I explore the impact of political and national boundaries on the social structures of cultures throughout the world using land(scape) to define a fixed idea of national identity. Ideas of nations can no more be bound by borders than language can fix meaning. The idea of nationhood is in constant flux. Languages die and are replaced by others just as borders are destroyed and redrawn. These concepts are articulated in part in all the work that is built layer upon layer. Previously, I have used obscure or obsolete languages such as Braille and Morse code in order to draw attention to the failure of language as a method of fixing meaning. I reference the constantly changing landscape – in effect continual destruction and regeneration – to describe the eradication and redefinition of cultures that are created through the surface construction of my paintings. The artifice creating these ideas is central to my paintings, which ask us to consider who and what forms the basis for historical memory and declare that movement through space and time defines both imagined and recreated historical place.
Through working in a wide variety of different locales, I try to understand historical perspective not only through research but also through interaction with those who currently live there, as well as with the echoes of past generations. The locations, the interaction with both those who are native to an area and those who have come later, inform my sense of place and reevaluation of memory.
My current work continues to use the map as a departure point, and explores my interest in the means of measuring and presenting -what we call – information.
The character of the paper constructions summons ideas of fragility, intangibility and instability. Both paintings and paper work evoke, through un-mapping, re-mapping and re-presenting, the ideas of either resistance or destruction and the displacement of groups of people as historical themes thus giving a tangible presence to uncertainty.