Karen Hackenberg

Karen Hackenberg  (karenhackenberg.com)  
"Influenced by the boldness and consumerism of pop art from the 1960s, Karen Hackenberg composes her paintings and sculptural installations from objects she collects on the beach near her studio in Port Townsend, Washington. She hopes that her images bring a bit of subversive humor into the critical subjects of ocean degradation, plastic decomposition, and global climate change. The objects she depicts express dismay at the high environmental cost of cheap plastics and careless stewardship of the ecosystem."


Karen Hackenberg

What is the best home for your art?

Karen Hackenberg’s paintings appeal to a wide audience due to its vibrant color, graphic realism, social consciousness, and wit. Because her paintings range in size from 4 x 6 inches to 4 x 6 feet or more, they are appealing for smaller homes with limited wall space, as well as for homes and businesses with expansive walls that can feature larger paintings.

Where can people find you hanging out?

Karen Hackenberg can most often be found working in her home studio in Port Townsend, WA, playing fiddle music with fellow musicians, and walking, swimming, or kayaking along Discovery Bay and the Olympic Peninsula. She also enjoys hanging out with good friends and fellow artists in the creative low-key town of Edison WA in the Skagit Valley. When in Seattle, you will most likely find her engaged in thought in one of the city’s fine museums and galleries or visiting with artist friends in Pioneer Square.

How do you describe your work and how do you talk to a potential buyer? Give us the elevator pitch. 

In her Watershed painting series, Hackenberg takes a light-hearted yet subversive approach to the serious subject of ocean degradation in colorful ironic paintings of beach trash, presenting a tongue-in-cheek catalog of imaginary post-consumer creatures of the sea. Shades of Green: Amphorae ca. 2012 depicts six discarded green soda bottles glowing on a driftwood board in evening winter light, and highlights the ubiquitous use of the word green to mean ecological in addition to the color green. The painting equates these throw away bottles with priceless ancient Greek amphorae, and provokes questions about what we value in 21st century consumer culture.

Fellow Seattle artist, Kate Vrijmoet, reflects on how Hackenberg interacts with her collectors. "Recently I began sharing my studio with another artist. When I watched Karen Hackenberg interact with visitors she did so with poise, confidence and authority. She took charge from the moment they walked in the door with the correct assumption that they were there to see her work and learn some interesting things".

If you could own a piece of art by any living artist, what would it be (or whose)?

Hackenberg owns artworks by many of her artist friends, and though it’s out of her range, a Woldgate Woods video by David Hockney would be high on her list! http://www.hockneypictures.com/current.php#.

What is your favorite museum in Seattle?

Hackenberg’s favorite museum in Seattle is Vulcan’s Pivot Art and Culture and its inaugural exhibition, Figure in Process: de Kooning to Kapoor, 1955 -2015.  She’s also a big fan of the Tacoma Art Museum, which is just a short drive south from Seattle, and is where you can see her paintings currently on view in the Northwest Art Now biennial exhibition and in TAM’s permanent collection.

What is often overlooked about your work?

When taking a casual first glance at Karen Hackenberg’s paintings of beach-trash, it can be easy to assume that her paintings are photographs, as she paints in a carefully rendered photorealist style. Upon a second look at her work’s saturated glowing colors, the painterly details are revealed along with the darkly humorous environmental implications of her chosen subject matter.

Solo Exhibitions:

  • 2016  Oil and Water, Smith and Vallee Gallery (Edison, WA)
  • 2015  Karen Hackenberg, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (Bainbridge Island, WA)
  • 2014  On the Beach, Skagit Valley College Art Gallery (Mount Vernon, WA)    
  • 2013  Karen Hackenberg: Exhibition and Artist Book Release, Paper Hammer (Seattle, WA)
  • 2011  Watershed, Vermillion Gallery (Seattle WA)

Group Exhibitions:

  • 2016  Northwest Art Now @ TAM, Tacoma Art Museum (Tacoma, WA)
  • 2015  Stilleven: Contemporary Still Life, Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Salem, OR)
  • 2015  Neo-Naturalist, Museum of Northwest Art (La Conner, WA)
  • 2016 Environmental Impact - traveling museum exhibition, St. Mary's College Museum of Art (Moraga CA)
  • 2012  Beneath the Surface: Rediscovering a World Worth Conserving, American Association for the Advancement of Science (Washington, D.C)

Permanent Collections:

  • Portland Art Museum (Portland. OR)
  • Tacoma Art Museum (Tacoma, WA)
  • Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Salem, OR)
  • New York State Museum (Albany, NY)
  • University of California Environmental Design Library (Berkeley, CA)