• NEW YORK, New York
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  • September 25, 2012

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Karen Tompkins, Carwash 8, 2008. Pigment print, 16 x 20 inches, edition of five.
Courtesy of MME Fine Art, LLC.
Karen Tompkins, Sea Script 4, 2010. Pigment print, 30 x 22 inches, edition of five.
Courtesy of MME Fine Art, LLC.

For artist Karen Tompkins, her work is a way of experiencing the ordinary in life as extraordinary. “It is the Zen aspect of seeing things in their essence—as if for the first time—that propels [my] work,” says Tompkins. This awareness has led her to investigate both the simplicity and complexity of forms, such as soap bubbles and formations of ocean foam, through various media. Twenty pigment prints and works of gouache on vellum will be exhibited and offered for sale for the first time in  Extraordinary/Ordinary at MME Fine Art, LLC in New York City from October 12-November 7, 2012.

“Upon seeing the work of Karen Tompkins, we were so impressed with her fresh and original vision that we wanted to have an exhibition of her work,” said Mindy Moak, co-partner of MME Fine Art. “Karen’s realist viewpoint is in keeping with ours but with a distinctly modern and playful twist. Also, the quality of her work is consistently high, as is our entire inventory.”

Inspired by the famed 19th-century American painters of nature such as Frederic Edwin Church, Martin Johnson Heade, Thomas Cole and Thomas Moran, Tompkins says, “Where these artists worked on a grand scale, my work seeks large themes in the small; the universe in a grain of sand.” Her work is process-oriented; she develops a series of images in different media and examines the architecture of nature, its scale and patterns.

Tompkins describes the “immediacy” of photography as a medium that “allows me the ability to ‘fix eternity in an instant,’ as [French photographer Henri] Cartier-Bresson would say. When photographing sea foam, there is only a split second that you can actually get an image before the foam disappears. In a carwash, the images of soap bubbles are fleeting, and the camera captures those quick flashes of phenomena so brilliantly. Photography gives me the means to document hundreds of evanescent moments that I can compile into a body of work. Then, I try to find patterns and anomalies in the ranges of images and hone in on them.”

Karen Tompkins, Bubble 1, 2012. Gouache on vellum, 24 x 19 inches.
Courtesy of MME Fine Art, LLC.

The Carwash series is such an example. It began in 2008 when she became mesmerized by the intricate patterns of light and color in the foam on the windshield of a car. That small revelation led to her compile a cache of hundreds of images from carwashes all over the country. Those images of water, foam and light then led to the Sea Script series (produced in 2010), which explores the infinite variations of sea form formations in the ocean. The paintings in the Bubble series (2012) invite the viewer into a kaleidoscopic world of ever-diminishing tiers of bubble structures. Each painting is a journey of light and color inside interconnecting bubbles. In each of these series, the works range in size from eight by eight inches to eight by nine feet allowing the viewer to choose which kind of viewing experience he or she prefers. Prices range from $3,500-$10,000.

Tompkins’ has participated in over forty solo and group exhibitions during the course of her lengthy career. She studied drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Art in Rome and the Pratt Institute in New York. She has since taught at the International Center of Photography and Free Arts NYC. Her work is included in numerous private, corporate and museum collections.

MME Fine Art, located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, specializes in American paintings from 1860-1960 and features examples of Hudson River School, Marine, Still-Life and American Impressionist paintings. The gallery will be open to the public from Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is located at 74 East 79th Street, Penthouse B, New York, NY 10075. Telephone: 212.439.6600; email: gallery@mmefineart.com; website: www.mmefineart.com.

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