I know. The word origin of ‘wet works’ is something terrible – the kind of work where someone ends up ‘sleeping with the fishes’ – but, like pulling bones from a fire before they, too, are consumed, I seize on this term when I look at Kari-Lise Alexander’s work. And I have a good reason: there is a stroke of the macabre to women’s art in the pop surrealist and new contemporary movements. But nowhere do I find it so intensely beautiful and, at times, chilling, as in Kari-Lise’s creations.
Kari-Lise is part of the upcoming Beautiful Bizarre Magazine curated exhibition ‘Heart’s Blood’ at Haven Gallery opening Sept 16, 2017.
Wake | WIP for ‘Heart’s Blood’
Though it may be a simplification, I like to think her work belongs in the lowbrow set that embeds women in natural settings, particularly, in Kari-Lise’s case, in water. If you’re familiar with Alyssa Monks, Lena Danya, or Happy D Artist from the spheres of their social media and art, some of their work also falls into that class. Conversely, I relate Ania Tomicka and Syd Bee to the number whose artwork plays with fire. There’s no arguing that natural forces are at play in the works of pop-surrealist and new contemporary women. What’s interesting about Kari-Lise is that she leverages both the transformative and restorative themes of water, and its most chaotic and morbid nature. In fact, she sometimes manages this in the same piece.
Along that theme, some viewers may be shocked by representations of blood in women’s artwork – I know I sometimes am! This remains surprising to me since, given the nature of womanhood, there are some universals. Monthly cycles of bloodshed are a pretty normal part of womanly adulthood. It’s one of those unions I often feel should be obvious, and isn’t. Like that, some of Kari-Lise’s water-women have a parallel I’ve seen in no other painter.
I froze the first time I saw the painting ‘The Reveal’. A Medean-revelation sprang at me like Athena straight from statistics on criminology. In my mind, I was remembering that women disproportionately dispose of deceased children wrapped in swaddling or plastic, in bodies of water – it’s often compared to returning them to some sort of earthly womb. This stunner was followed by the realization that Kari-Lise’s intensely beautiful work understands something very archetypal in water. Her Muses run deep.
Since that eye-opening moment, I’ve noted many themes that emphasize distortion and transformation, even where water isn’t present. Mundane objects change once they pass through her creative process and a strong sense of a world above (or below) the average is entangled in her vision. It’s not unlike the fairy realm in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where illustrious, industrious halls are invaded by wild, warped things at the coming of night.
At times, Kari-Lise’s inner-lens taps into something primordial in human personality. Like all artists, she’s growing and changing, herself. And I think it may be tempting to assess her work as something strictly beautiful in days to come, and that is one aspect that makes her art breathtaking! But the delicious complexities in her body of work may be what ultimately makes her art endure. Dying to see more? Visit Kari-Lise Alexander’s website for additional works and updates.