‘Self Conscious’: Artist in Residence Karin Wengenroth ’17, Fine Art, pushes her boundaries in new exhibition

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Friday, July 8th, 2022

At the beginning of her tenure as the 2021-22 Fine Art Alumni Artist in Residence, Karin Wengenroth said she planned to use her yearlong position to “explore what feels like a new medium.”

Now, nearly a year later and with the opening of her exhibition, Self Conscious, a dozen works in the College’s gallery bear testimony to the impact Wengenroth’s residency has had on her art. 

“The whole idea is kind of like immersion therapy,” says Wengenroth, a 2017 Fine Art BFA graduate. “It’s breaking through the disassociation between (my) brain and this body, and connecting the two — literally making an object of myself … the fact that I could make something beautiful based on my ‘self.'”

Self Conscious is on exhibit on the main floor of the PCA&D Gallery from July 7 through Aug. 7. 

Wengenroth is the College’s second Fine Art Alumni Artist in Residence, following Jason Herr ’16 in 2019-2020. The program was put on hold because of pandemic restrictions in the intervening academic year. 

In her on-campus studio — the same studio space where she worked on her thesis project during her senior year — Wengenroth spent the first half of her tenure mapping out what she planned to do. The residency work bears some resemblance to her thesis: innovatively cropped paintings of anonymous nude figures. But those thesis paintings, Wengenroth says, used the bodies of friends and models. This time, she was determined to make art that was more intensely personal. She took hundreds of photos of her own body and credits Fine Art Chair Becky Blosser with helping to break through indecision about which photographs should be used as inspiration for her paintings. “She told me, ‘I can see you’re trying to force yourself’ into some sort of through-line (to connect the paintings),” Wengenroth remembers. “Instead, Becky said, ‘Paint what strikes you.’ So I went through the photos and, if one didn’t interest me immediately, in a second, it was out” of consideration. 

What’s left is a selection of eight paintings and, for the first time in Wengenroth’s history of exhibitions, four photographs. Exhibited alongside the paintings, Wengenroth’s photographs reflect a similar subject — her body — in a less anonymous way. One photo in particular, a study of Wengenroth in repose, is lifesized. The alumni residency made the photos possible, she says, as she was able to take advantage of College facilities to make large-scale prints. Together, the two mediums, painting and photography, both display a nod toward the craftsmanship and drafting skills that Wengenroth developed at PCA&D. 

“I’m excited to pair photos with paintings,” Wengenroth says. “It feels cohesive across the board,” with a feeling of movement evident in both mediums. 

“I looked at it all through the lens of the eye, the lens of painting,” she says. “And I didn’t want to idealize myself, or to ‘Photoshop’ myself in either (medium). Most important is the honesty.”

branding for 2022 exhibit by Karin Wengenroth '17, Fine Art