‘Through the Wall’: Artist Karen Frazer spends some time with her neighbors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2013

“Sometimes, as I sit bent over, working in my studio, I hear music, or hammering, or the words ‘testing, testing’ coming from the other side of my wall,” says artist Karen Frazer. “It’s a good energy to hear that creativity coming through.”
This particular wall separates the Looking Glass Artists Center’s black box theater and gallery at 407 N. Lee Street in Salisbury from Rail Walk Studios and Gallery at 409 North Lee. Only a thin barrier of concrete blocks and about seven feet of space separates Frazer’s studio from the stage at Looking Glass.
Now Frazer has been invited by LGAC to come over to other side and present “Through the Wall,” an exhibit of her paper pulp paintings and works in encaustic wax. On display is a series on which she has worked for about two years — “String Theory” — along with work from some other series,“Ancestors” and “Easter Island.” She is also presenting work from her recurring subject of “The Cosmos.”
Frazer explains her choices in her artist’s statement: “I was a very curious child. I am still curious about the whole Universe and find wonder and awe in Physics. I listen to explanations of String Theory and follow along. I understand for a brief second and then it is gone. Something of it lingers, an intuitive feeling. Also, I like irony and humor, hence the creation of my String Theory.
“My ancestor series came about not long after my Grandmother had died. I was at a museum and saw a house moved here from China. Inside of the house I saw an altar to the ancestors of the family. I wanted to do something like that for my grandparents.”
Frazer created a series of ancestor-inspired works. The current exhibit includes pieces representing blood ancestors and land ancestors.
“I saw a photo of the Easter Island ancestor sculptures, and the way they are arranged led me to think it is altar-like and that the way they are arranged creates a sacred space. I like some of my art to create a sacred space,” says Frazer.
“The Cosmos is a recurring theme and reflects my continual contemplation of humankind’s relationship to the Universe. That is, when I am not wondering what in the world I am going to cook for dinner and why I just can’t seem to mop the front porch.”
Frazer is a mixed media artist who enjoys both painting and sculpting, and sometimes incorporates found objects in her work. The current exhibit includes both older work and some of Frazer’s newest creations in her two primary areas of study for the past 25 years: handmade paper and encaustic wax. She finds the versatility and characteristics of wax most rewarding, and encaustic wax has been at the center of Frazer’s artistic life for the past nine years. She describes this medium as an updated version of a form of paint from ancient Greece.
Her work ranges from flat paintings to sculpture, and has been described as “complex” and “mysterious.” Additional influences include the artist Joseph Cornell and Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
For her, the work is “contemplative, narrative in a not-so-obvious way, and very personal.”
“I am often thinking of humankind’s relationship to the Universe, and how to convey the wonder and awe,” she says.
Frazer studied at Maryland Institute College of Art and holds a degree in art education from Delaware State University. She served as an adjunct faculty member for the Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington, where she taught workshops in handmade paper and encaustic wax collage. While living in Wilmington, she also maintained a studio and taught workshops at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art.
In 2009, she and her husband, Ron Frazier, (yes, she is a Frazer with no “i” married to a Frazier with an “i”) moved to Spencer. At the same time, Frazer established her studio in Salisbury’s Rail Walk.
“Through the Wall” is on exhibit through Feb. 2. Regular gallery hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and the art is also on view during shows in the LGAC black box. A list of events can be found on the Looking Glass website: www.salisburyartists.com. A free reception and artist talk will be held 6 to 8 p.m., Jan. 10, in the gallery at Looking Glass, 405-407 N. Lee St. From 6:45-7:15 p.m., Frazer will speak briefly about her work and demonstrate the use of wax in art-making.
For more information, call 704-633-2787 or contact salisburyartists@gmail.com.