For This Florida Artist, it's a "Compulsion to Create"
Karen Schremmer's work is lavish, obsessive — and totally iconic.
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Glowing colors and bold elegance blend and move through the works of the Florida artist Karen Schremmer. As a multidisciplinary painter, creator, and designer, she has produced abstract and visionary mixed media paintings and products layered in themes of pop culture and self-Indulgence, where ornamental luxuries like jewels, sequins and accessories pose under a rich coat of resin; in all of them is a spirit of freedom and a remarkable attention to detail.
Much of Schremmer’s work reimagines the iconography of celebrity and modern culture in a kind of unconstrained exhibition. She likes to begin each piece with intuitive creative energy – an imaginative idea – balancing multiple themes at once and building a collage concept from contrasting images. Though much of her art is mixed media, she considers herself ‘just an artist’ with a compulsion to create.
“I’ve been an artist my entire life,” Schremmer said in a phone interview. “From the moment I wake in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night, it’s a compulsive desire to make art and feel the joy only art can bring.”
Besides their thrilling and visual intensity, the works’ integrative materials demonstrate Schremmer’s innovative style of expression through each layered enhancement and hidden intricacy. Whether it is a painted black and white portrait of an iconic celebrity or colorful and highly stylized butterflies, birds, flowers, animals, Gucci symbols, and more, the connection between Schremmer and her work centers on high energy and an obsessive quality that appeals to her audience.
Though the mid-90s marked the beginning of her art career – operating out of her own studio inside a storefront off Central Ave. in Downtown St. Pete, making the same type of vibrant creations that define her style today – a shift in life circumstances and having a child meant finding more stable employment. “After having my son, I needed a steady paycheck and insurance, so I went back to school and became a pediatric echocardiographer, and I did that for many years,” Schremmer said. “But, in turn, I ended up with repetitive work injuries, and eventually, felt like G - D wanted me to do something different.”
According to Schremmer, one life challenge after another led to her becoming, what she calls, a ‘miserable couch potato,’ and out of sheer boredom, her attention suddenly turned back to art. At first, she began making digital works with her iPhone (a gift from her family) by playing with photography, drawing and painting, and, eventually creating, she said, a new and innovative type of mixed-media collage. As her passion to create grew, so did a desire to work as a full time artist.
“I told myself that once I sold five paintings, I’ll quit my job, and do art full time,” she said. “I quit when I sold two.”
That was about five years ago, and Schremmer has since expanded works’ to include within her repertoire, not only mixed-media collage paintings, but also furniture, accessories and sculptures. Each image, or item, is hand-finished with traditional paint and brush-strokes and further harmonized by adding layers of materials including crystal rhinestones and smaller sculptures handmade by Schremmer. What unites them all is an immaculate sense of color, rhythm and design, each one so lavishly textured, giving the work a sculptural quality, where additional materials reflect and play with the light.
Schremmer is, in a way, an Instagram artist. Though you can find her collection in several local and international galleries, she initially started out on the photo and video sharing platform and regularly sells her work because of relationships and connections with her followers.
“Instagram is like a dating service for friends, matching you with other people that have an uncanny amount of things in common,” she said. “And that’s how I started to get to know people and build trust. It’s actually quite magical if you think about it.”
When the social media platform moved from square photos to more reels and videos, Schremmer, who goes by @karenschremmerart, moved along with it, sharing snippets of her day and behind-the-scenes reels that prove to be just as fun and stylized as her art. “I’m a very shy person and a bit of a homebody,” she said. “But through my posts and stories and following others, I have met so many wonderful people, many of whom I now know in person and speak to on a weekly basis.”
Over the last five years, since she’s been on Instagram, Schremmer’s developed a following of nearly 62,000 simply by showcasing her work and staying active on the platform. But while she dedicates much of her outreach there, she is looking to expand more in galleries within the United States and abroad.
Although bringing art to new locations is the intention, Schremmer said, the best part of the journey is bringing the joy of art to people’s homes. “The art is about joy and being happy,” she said. “So many people get art for different reasons like a change in marital status, a loved one passing, or even buying their first house. When my artwork brings them joy, I get a tremendous amount of fulfillment from that.”
“It’s been quite gratifying for me to be able to do that for someone.”
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