Tag Archives: series

Karen Schnepf

December 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Karen Schnepf’s artist profile, published in Her magazine in 2009 (now HerFamily magazine), carried the subtitle “Coloring Outside the Lines.” Much has changed in Schnepf’s life and artwork since then, but her credo is still the same. Whether beginning a fresh painting, designing her home, or playing with a grandchild, she believes in following an idea wherever it may lead rather than let conventional boundaries define the shape of her explorations. Color and curiosity are the joint impetus for her paintings; they are the verve and rhythm that bring her work to life.

Schnepf’s painting signature is an immediately recognizable style, with abstract compositions whose bright colors are emphasized by the artist’s unique, high-gloss finish. Colors assume shape by either consolidating into an area on the canvas or by lines suggesting a perimeter. These contours—whether a thick brush stroke or a quick, gestural dash—are somehow incomplete, interrupted. They have the same energy as Navajo spirit lines—the break prevents the work’s creative spirit from being trapped and thus stifled. Schnepf’s lines exclaim, meander, circle, and drip; they both allude and elude.

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Her new paintings literally and figuratively bump up the arrangement. In her latest series, Whispers, Secrets, Reality, paper collaged onto the canvas adds a layer of mystery to one or more areas of a painting. Finished with her three-step glossing process, the dimensionality is subtle and ambiguous, especially in view of Schnepf’s tendency to overlap paint. Before you can wonder what’s been covered up you have to decide if something has actually been covered up.

“The series is inspired by the complexity of relationships that come into our lives and how those relationships can change our road map,” says Schnepf.

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Further exploring the enticement of playing with space in another current series, Colors Layered, she arranges strata of heavy watercolor paper, cut, painted on one or both sides, and layered like shingles. Many of these soak up her vivid hues like sundrenched tiles, but Schnepf is so attuned to color that she celebrates its range even in a neutral palette. This sensitivity allows color to remain strong, even with the added focuses of texture 
and dimension.

“I particularly love the smooth, sophisticated, shiny surfaces of Karen’s pieces. It brings a vibrancy to the work.”
— Judy Boelts, collector

Whether painting or constructing, Schnepf follows her instincts; she adds, subtracts, shifts, leaves, comes back, questions, listens.

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“There is a passion in me that requires me to go to the next level,” she says, “to never settle for the ordinary, to experiment until I find the right combination of elements.” When she senses that her ideas have coalesced into an articulate and aesthetic expression, “Then I feel the satisfaction of completion, and the only thing that I add is my signature.” Change can be dramatic, as in Whispers, Secrets, Reality 5. (Works in a series are typically identified by number.) A patchwork ground has been quieted by a scrim of lavender; the most intense of those colors integrated into a central column. Black circles take on physicality; one can imagine they buzz in conversation, while black and white riffs ripple the surrounding space.

Coloring outside the lines, it seems, is an invitation to improvisation.

Karen Schnepf is represented by the Dundee Gallery. A solo exhibition of her work is planned there in April.

Maha Music Festival 2013

June 20, 2013 by

It’s hard to believe the Maha Music Festival will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year. First held in 2009 at the Lewis & Clark Landing in Downtown Omaha, the all-day outdoor indie rock festival moved to Stinson Park at Aksarben Village in 2011, where it remains today. Each year, the event expands and evolves into a bigger musical machine than it was the year before.

Even more surprisingly, Maha is a nonprofit endeavor, run strictly by volunteers and supported by a host of generous corporate sponsors, including Centris Federal Credit Union, Weitz Investment Management, Schnackel Engineers, and 20 other local and national companies. The event is built on a love for the Omaha community and a passion for music. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy feat. Maha Board President Tre Brashear admits he didn’t exactly know what he was getting into when it first began.

Photo by Chip Duden.

Photo by Chip Duden.

“I jokingly say if we knew how much work [Maha] was going to be, we probably would have never done it in the first place,” Brashear says. “But once it gets in your blood a little bit, you want to make it better and better so it keeps going. It was hard to explain to our families that we weren’t making any money [laughs].”

This year’s music lineup announcement sent shockwaves through the Omaha community when people got word The Flaming Lips were headlining the August 17 event. Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne and his wild, gray-streaked Afro are all over television lately, with Coyne serving as the spokesperson for Virgin Mobile. Not only are The Flaming Lips huge right now, they’re also the most expensive act Maha has ever booked. The organizers spent 25 percent more on talent this year than last, Brashear shares.

Photo by Josh Hollowell.

Photo by Josh Hollowell.

The initial Maha concept was to generate enough profit from the event to donate to various nonprofit organizations around the community; so far, that hasn’t happened. But the Maha committee is determined to make that goal a reality. With The Flaming Lips headlining and prolific artists such as Matt & Kim, The Thermals, and Bob Mould (Sugar) rounding out the bill, Brashear is hopeful this is the year.

“We thought we’d come out gangbusters out of the gate, but we didn’t do that,” he says. “We’re trying to get enough money to put aside so we know Maha is safe and will continue on, even if it rains or nobody likes the headliners. We are slowly getting there, but it’s not to the point we can distribute anything [to nonprofits] yet.”

Despite the challenges, Maha always has an eye on the future. Hip-Hop has been noticeably absent over the years, and the festival also seems a bit confined with just one day of performances.

“Our vision for Maha is to have multiple days on a weekend,” Brashear explains. “We want to be able to expand to different genres. We still want to be true to all of our indie fans that have grown up with us, but we’re not trying to only be this indie music festival. We want to go beyond that.”

Tickets for the Maha Music Festival are available for purchase online at mahamusicfestival.com. Advanced general admission tickets are $45, and day-of general admission tickets are $55.