Drawn from Life: Karinna Gomez in the Studio

January 25, 2018 by

On her copper plates, the care with which Karinna Gomez treats her line work is evident across the aquatint grain. We see it in the way an electrical cord coils on the ground and the pattern of a lawn chair’s webbing. Another print, Goldstream Drive, shows sketched lines printed several times with the plate moved slightly each run. At another point in her Studio Grant Residency, Karinna printed the backs of two etched plates just to see how the unintentionally gathered shapes transferred to paper.

With a “little abstract, little documentary” printing practice, Karinna came to WSW’s intaglio studio to expand her “Break Up” series of etchings that captures glimpses of her life in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her residency coincided with a turning point: afterwards she moved farther south to Anchorage after living six years just a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. Series specific to time and place are found from Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo to Berenice Abbott’s shots of 1930s New York City, and well beyond. For Karinna, who is refining how she uses tone and color in her prints, the characteristics of high latitude spaces complemented how she can control the appearance of light on the etching press.

“Living in Alaska is surrounded by this romantic idea, and there is something to that,” she says.  “It’s beautiful, it’s amazing to live surrounded by a very wild landscape, and there are high contrast seasons with intense winters and summers, intense dark and light.”

However, a handful of her former cold-worn, broken down cars remind Karinna not be totally swept away by the idealized vision of Alaska—there’s a unique system of give and take in play.

Graduate school brought Karinna to Fairbanks after she had spent a year working in Iceland on a Fulbright. Her thesis, too, contained local views printed as mezzotints—an acidless printing process that could create “velvet” black backgrounds and render exceptionally dim atmospheres. As life so far north seemed to agree with her personal rhythm, she stayed in the area when after graduation.

Karinna opts for a day-to-day approach to her imagery, elucidating how the wilderness shapes the reality of some local communities. This is not to say that rolling landscapes and nature’s beauty are exempt from the discussion. During her residency she printed a wide sky and horizon, but with a detail familiar to her fellow state residents: the scene is illuminated by high beam “moose lights.”

Summers are marked with watering cans, winter by extension cords. Karinna can look at her work and point out where in the scene her friend would park her car to plug in the block heater (preventing the engine from freezing), or tell you the story behind that jeep (she no longer owns it). We can find the jugs to haul water, as it is common to live without running water in Fairbanks.

She clarifies, “If I did not live in the north, I think I would still make work in this fragmented, narrative way.”

Fragmentation runs through both subject and composition, as a prominent line of Karinna’s practice lies in collage. Paper helps her discover new subjects by working more directly and loosely, and in her home studio. Using hand cut chine-collé paper tinted with pastels, she adds select colors into her otherwise monochromatic works. It’s an continuous experiment, a conversation between shapes expressively cut—almost like brushstrokes—drawings meticulously executed as prints. She’s interesting in further blending the two styles, and is still exploring the uncertain middle ground. 

But to use Karinna’s word, the ongoing process will at some point “melt” into other possibilities, such as Goldstream Drive’s shifted viewpoints, her linear series of figures, and other tangential projects that have yet to take shape. 

Find more photographs from Karinna’s residency on our Flickr!

Karinna Gomez is a visual artist residing in Fairbanks, AK. Her intaglio prints and collages explore representations of high latitude spaces, figures and landscapes. Karinna earned her MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2014 and has since participated in residencies at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, CO and at Galleri Christensen in Kjøllefjord, Norway. She has received several awards including a Fulbright Grant to Iceland and a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award.