I’m Learning to Say No in 520 Languages, mixed media on canvas,36 x 96“, 2009

Karen Gutfreund

Artist Statement

How often do I hear my brain screaming NO as I smile and say yes? These random words are all “NO” in different languages. So I am learning to say no in 520 languages, most importantly mine, NO.


Karen Gutfreund has lived in all four corners of the United States but most recently came to the Bay Area in California from New York City. While in New York she worked in the Painting & Sculpture Department for MoMA, the Andre Emmerick Gallery, The Knoll Group and the John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco. She now resides in San Jose, CA and is actively involved on the board of various arts organizations and is the National Exhibitions Coordinator for the Women’s Caucus for Art and a curator of feminist art exhibitions. Karen is also creating her own work, focusing on conceptual art and promoting the work of other artists as a Curator and Art Consultant.

I create work that involves painting, mixed media, collage and photography, blurring the boundaries between these mediums. My paintings are large scale, both on canvas and wood panel. I start with a layer of text to create a grid in the background, even if completely covered with paint later. I use unconventional materials, such as roof tar, bone, red food coloring, wax, to create mood and texture that is thick and viscous. Then using hot political issues, I mix it up with text, pop culture images, stencils, and symbols to create works that are a combination of personal commentary, religious and moral teachings, political outrage and social observation. This process of working with disparate imagery and the revelations it produces morphs and evolves as I work. Often the imagery and core meaning of the painting is very personal and emotionally gut-wrenching, so that not being able to discuss it verbally, I present it visually. Part humorous, part tragic, I want to help others to see with my eyes, my perceptions and realities; the layering of images with mixed meanings echoes and reveals the layers and the inner complexity of my dreams, nightmares and emotions.