by Eddie Arroyo

She’s just getting settled into her studio when my eyes find a small couch sitting by the corner. It seems to have been altered in a rather violent way, as a consequence of some domestic dispute. Pieces of wood from a slide closet door protrude from one side of it to another. This couch has a strange presence. Karen Starosta-Gilinski is an artist that takes everyday objects and alters them. The result is a beautiful at times adorable work of art.

For the past five years she has been making the rounds all over South
Florida from Locust Projects to the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood as well as art fairs and art institutions around the U.S., Europe, South America, Central America, and Asia (Shanghai Art Contemporary Art Fair 2010). And now here at the Fountainhead Studios, I sit down on a vacant chair and ask her about her Cotton Candy sculpture series which is rooted on conceptual dichotomy.

EA
You have stated that your sculptures have a unique look, a character,
creature, or personality. Are they based on anyone you know personally or are they an archetype of sort?

KSG
The sculptures are not always based on anyone in particular its more of a play on conceptual extremes like good and evil. Sometimes they can work together as one piece but I tend to display them separately. I like the fact that they are different and similar. But yeah, some of the sculptures do express a familiar personality just not on one specifically maybe bits of one person here and there that I may know or have moved my emotions in some way.

EA
I’m looking at your work here and I see that all of them are deconstructed from toys or pretty objects. I wanted to ask you about your process or rather how does it work?

KSG
I like to take objects with provocative textures or anything that I find interesting and change it to my own beauty. So I start to break it apart like removing a limb off a doll or cut open a plush toy and put it together to another object until it becomes visually satisfying and strong enough to express a character or situation. It’s a very “fast” process, I mean it doesn’t feel like I’ve spent that much time on it but then 8 hours pass by and wonder where the time has gone. It gets pretty involving.

EA
It sounds like a hostile process. I can see your studio filled with
disembodied/deconstructed toys and colorful knick-knacks lying here andthere. Kind of like some sort of crime scene or torture chamber.

KSG
I guess it could be seen that way but I don’t feel that it is. I don’t get pleasure from taking something beautiful and tearing it apart. It’s a painful process but I do it because it makes me stronger. I believe that nothing lasts forever and everything is temporary so it’s more of an exercise to prepare me emotionally for what is to come. I have children now and eventually they will get older and leave to follow their own life. One of the reasons I do this work is to be strong for that. Some of the objects I deconstruct are very personal to me. I have a toy doll that was given to me by my grandmother and one day I decided to take it and break it apart and put it together again as a sculpture. Needless to say it was not easy to do that, in fact it was very difficult but I felt it needed to be done.

EA
Well then why not deconstruct something you think is ugly or take something pretty and make it ugly?

KSG
Because I won’t feel anything. It doesn’t work for me to take something ugly because it’s already ugly. There is no emotional connection. The object has to be precious. And to make something that looks ugly is not something that interests me.

EA
I didn’t think your work had that kind of intent.

KSG
Neither did I but it tends to move that way sometimes.

EA
So what plans do you have now? Does it have something to do with that couch sculpture on the corner there?

KSG
Its part of a concept I’m playing with right now dealing more with telling a story or an event. The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood are giving me a large space next year and I’ve been looking to work on a larger scale. So I’m excited about that.

EA
Maybe it could turn into installation?

KSG
Maybe.

www.karengilinski.com
www.fountainheadresidency.com