Karen E. Gersch

Karen's earliest memories are of drawing. Throughout her childhood, she sketched constantly from life. At the age of 13, she had her first formal painting lessons and three years later won a scholarship to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. There, in addition to painting, she studied graphics, illustration and theatre, earning a BFA with Honors in 1973.

Karen's lifelong love of circus, the inspiration of so much of her artwork, led her to study ballet and acrobatics after graduating Pratt. She supported herself by painting murals and backdrops for restaurants, dance and theatre companies. Warner Bros. Records and Henson Associates were two of her longtime corporate clients, for whom she created sets, graphics and illustrations.

A founding member of both the Big Apple Circus and Vermont's Circus Smirkus, she has toured with various three-ring circuses in the U.S. and Canada. On tour, Karen keeps copious sketch journals of the acts, the artists and of life on the road. The spontaneous drawings for which she is known, capture a maximum of movement and expression with a minimum of line. Her own physical training and performing expertise helps her define the skills she captures so succinctly on paper and canvas.

Karen makes "portraits of the moment" wherever she travels. But back in her New York City loft, oil paintings are the preferred medium. The Bowery studio she's lived in for the past 30 years holds hundreds of sketchbooks, paintings and framed drawings, (as well as a trapeze).

Always experimenting and ever prolific, Karen uses a multitude of materials and styles to create ongoing studies, from abstract oil paintings on paper to intricate collages; from an "Endangered Animal Series" to watercolor seascapes and mixed media constructions.

She has exhibited in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Cape Cod, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Canada, France, England and Germany. Her art is in private collections around the world, has been published in books and magazines, and is the subject of several documentary films.