Safari, 18 x 18 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2010 (detail)



My work is a visual dialogue between abstraction and representation in paintings, drawings, and prints. A wide variety of subjects – from the personal to the political – influence my art making. I make many pieces where nonobjective elements commingle with figurative forms. For example, I have included images such as surveillance cameras; fragments of women’s bodies; the wreckage left behind after hurricane Katrina; military aircraft; and birds in flight. Recently I have been working simultaneously on series that allow either abstraction or figuration to dominate more fully.
The more abstract paintings depict expansion and growth, even explosion – perhaps on the cellular level, or in infinite spatial relationships. Fragmentation of the surface image reveals glimpses into other vistas. I often think of the figurative elements in my works as nouns in a sentence – describing a particular. Removing the figure from the work allows greater freedom for any specific meaning to evolve through a synthesis with the viewer’s imagination rather than having a narrative suggested by me.

I hope the pictures communicate a sense of humor and playfulness as well as an engagement with the world we live in today. Although many issues are referenced, the work itself remains non-linear, seeking to raise questions rather than to give answers.


After beginning college at a music conservatory on the East Coast, transferring through a few different schools, and spending a year studying and traveling in Europe, Kara Maria moved to San Francisco in 1990 to attend the University of California, Berkeley. There she earned a BA in Art Practice in 1993, followed by an MFA in 1998. Maria is currently an Instructor in the Public Education Department at the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA; and has taught at other Bay Area universities and colleges as well.

Maria’s work can be found in permanent collections including the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; the di Rosa Preserve, Napa, CA; the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara, CA among others. She has been the recipient of awards such as a Masterminds Grant from the SF Weekly, San Francisco, CA; a grant from Artadia, New York, NY; and an Eisner Prize from the University of California, Berkeley. Presses including Gallery 16, San Francisco; Shark’s Ink, Lyons, CO; and Smith Andersen Editions, Palo Alto, CA have published her prints. Maria is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

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