Kari Souders (she/her/hers)
“Creativity allows me to express my own unique vision of the world regardless of my disability. It helps me stay centered and gives me a sense of inner peace.”
Artist Kari Souders work weaves extraordinary texture balanced with rich compositions to communicate important themes of connection, environmental sustainability, and the visual experience. Born in a small town in Upstate NY, her art practice began organically, drawing and creating since she was young. Kari was born with only having vision in one eye, which she feels made her hypervigilant to the visual world. She followed this passion and focus, receiving her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland on a full teaching scholarship. Kari moved to the Philadelphia area where she has resided now for over 25 years.
Kari shares, “Having been born with vision in only one eye, I have always seen the world through a monocular lens. It’s like I'm always zoomed in on things.” This more narrow window made her extremely aware of fine details that others with typical vision may miss. Creating art helped to ground her through her experiences. She explains, “Creating art has given my mind the space and time to focus entirely on the process of what I am doing in a given moment. It's very stabilizing for someone who has monocular vision. It allows me to connect with the world in a manner that feels balanced which benefits both my emotional well-being and my overall health.”
Living with monocular vision has also given her a deep appreciation for experiencing the world not only visually but also tacitly. As a result, she gravitated toward becoming an artist who creates textured art using her unique lens. When interacting with Kari’s art, it becomes quickly apparent that the layers are masterfully executed and deeply thought through. She consciously prepares by deciding on the materials and methods she will be applying, as well as the theme or message of the work. Kari shares, “Since my work involves weaving many layers I usually start by applying loose freeform marks. This helps me let a more unconscious freedom take over. Only then can something delightfully unexpected occur.” This imaginative incubation period can take months to explore.
Kari’s process continues, involving mapping, exploring organic constraints and seeking the possibilities of continuous systems. Working in a grid format, she continually rotates the canvas in 90-degree segments, focusing in on a cross section while examining how it melds in with the entirety of the piece. “I work through a ritualistic physical and structural approach to harmonize media and color until they evolve to a mutual resolution over time,” she describes. Her woven lines are thickly layered and painted which creates an imbrication of dense textures. Kari states, “The surfaces are intensely worked until they appear both destructive and regenerative. Through the imbrication of textures and movement I can interweave the topography of the brain and the outside world.” To finalize a piece, she layers periods of time that involve deep observation along with more deliberate and conscious problem solving.
Kari loves the tactile experience of creating. “My nature is to get my hands dirty and dig in the dirt. In that way, making textural art connects me with the earth,” she shares. One of Kari’s favorite materials is natural beeswax for its smell, translucent golden color, texture, malleability, and sustainability. For her, beeswax has spiritual meaning and feels like she is adding layers of protective skin to the piece, as well as using Earth’s resources to create.
Kari is motivated by the natural world, especially the experience of living through climate change. Her Cracked Earth series aims to express love and loss related to global warming. The cracks and fissures within the composition hint at desertification and changing environments. However, the painting remains beautiful, highlighting that even during this destruction, nature remains a stunning, calming force. She hopes her work illuminates the crisis going on and motivates change.
Kari values the peace that creating gives her, juxtaposed with the yearning to uncover something new in her work. She thinks a lot about balance – the yin and yang of life. She often includes circles in her work, as they represent the notions of totality, wholeness, the self and timelessness. Kari says, “It symbolizes the cycle of time, the perpetual motion of everything: birth, growth, decline, death. It’s in the Yin and Yang that something special is unearthed.”
Painting is a way for her to communicate, connect and release parts of herself. She values community and the exchange of ideas, which she feels leads to awakening for all. Kari expresses, “The reality is that very few of my viewers and collectors see my work as I do. We each bring our own unique perspective through our unique life experiences as well as how we visually see the world. I am fascinated about discussing and exploring those differences.”
Kari hopes to reach new audiences through her partnership with ArtLifting, which will allow her to connect with communities and share her concepts. Her greatest accomplishment is “raising well adjusted, productive, community driven children who are respectful of the world and want to give back to humanity.” Along with her passion around climate change, she also advocates for women’s and humanitarian rights, and dreams of a healthy, sustainable world that is green for all, not just for some. When she is not creating, she enjoys gardening, long walks in nature, community outreach and spending time with family and friends.
Prints by Kari Souders (she/her/hers)
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