Once Upon a Word – Es war einmal ein Wort, 2013
Drum leaf binding, cover and slip case: quilted, handmade flax paper with embedded hair. Printed on Lithography and digital printing on Rives Lightweight and pigmented, stenciled handmade paper. 8.5″x 6.5″x 3/4″, Slip Case: 8.75″ x 7″ x 1.5″. Edition of 2, with 4 A/P. $850
Open My /Your Wound, 2007
One sheet book, Maze structure, Digital image and text, Printed on card stock paper with wrap-around cover and slipcase of handmade paper with hair inclusions, 12 pages, .5 x 2 x 2.5 inches, Number 1 of edition of 10.
The inspiration to my work is the seeming paradox of opposites. I am interested in dichotomies of all sorts as they live side by side with each other in my own life, in that of others, and in the grander history of human kind: brutality and grace, coarseness and dignity, the beautiful and the grotesque. In my work each new piece is a kind of alchemic act towards living with this paradox. I like to see my work as a process of incompatibles not necessarily its resolution.
The book format offers an ideal formal space for the dynamic processes I am interested in: a space to unfold, perhaps separate, juxtapose, integrate and mediate. The intimacy of the book provides an environment for the unresolved and perhaps difficult processes I am exploring.
In “Once Upon a Word” I bring into focus toxic vocabulary from the Nazi era that is either avoided in or used with reservation in contemporary German. Isolating such vocabulary for scrutiny interests me because it exposes each word to layers of meaning and emotional weight, a weight that becomes lost to younger generations who are inheriting the avoidance. Equally interesting to me is how the emotional toxicity of this vocabulary gets completely deflated in it’s translation into English.
Karen Baldner grew up in West Germany in a Jewish family which was persecuted by Nazi Germany. The haunted climate of Germany after the Holocaust became a pivotal experience and narrative for her work. Other influences were her publisher family and the literary/musical world she grew up with; the experience of the written word as both powerful and slippery. Of inspiration were also the work and life of Joseph Beuys, the pioneering work of book artist Keith Smith, the sculptor/papermaker Winnifred Lutz, and the shifts of thinking in the 1960’s. Although Germany remains a personal and professional destination, living in the US has become an important emotional buffer. Karen moved to the US to complete her formal studies with a Masters Degree in Printmaking and she still lives and works in the Midwest. She teaches Book Arts and Drawing at Herron School of Art & Design at Indiana University in Indianapolis . Karen’s work has been supported by Fulbright and NEA Grants as well as state grants from Arkansas and Indiana. She shows extensively throughout the US and Europe and her work is in a number of public and private collections in the US, Canada and Germany.