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Artist ID: 2461

I am a southern prodigal daughter, born in south Mississippi and living in Alabama.
I have traveled extensively and have chosen to make work within cultures that both match and contrast my ancestry. I consider my art to be cultural diplomacy devoted to trust and intersectionality. I am in service of story and raw honest visual truth. I work from my documentary/humanitarian projects to inform my art which encompasses installation, performance and mixed media. I live in Alabama and my artistic practice is focused by “Southerness”.

Art is an authentic space for processing story and the sensations of life. My family matriarch, known as Mama Pearl, was a primary inspiration to me. She was not allowed to swim because of strict standards of southern propriety. She amazingly renegotiated propriety through a deliberate ritual. She would volunteer to supervise us as children on swimming outings to Cedar Creek, she would scold us from the shore of Cedar Creek, wade in for more emphasis, then stumble and fall into the water. Finally, she would announce, “Now that I am wet, I might as well swim”. She swam powerfully with her dark dress swirling within the swift currents. Her pinned up white braids would unfasten and float like magic white snakes. Mama Pearl taught me that there are times in life to dive in and resist the pull of currents. And this is truly the art life. I fall in to life and story and trust the visual language of art.

Bio: Karen Graffeo
Karen Graffeo is a Professor Emeritus of Art and has directed the photography program at the University of Montevallo. She is the recipient of a Tanne Foundation award in 2014 and was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar appointment to Romania. In 2005 she was named University Scholar at the University of Montevallo for her long term (1999-present) documentary photography work in Roma (Gypsy) communities and refugee encampments in Europe.

Karen Graffeo is an active multi-media artist in photography, performance and installation. She has had numerous national and international solo exhibitions. Her exhibition “Let Us Now Praise the Roma” has been exhibited in Paris, Italy, New York, and Romania. In relation to her experiences within Roma and Cuban culture Graffeo writes: “Within other cultures I have experienced intimacy and strong lessons in life and identity. I do not journey as either a tourist or a journalist; I collaborate as an artist, a participant and an observer. I am deeply aware of the power of art that bears witness to populations isolated by poverty or political circumstances. I seek the moment, instant and the stories, which provide a metaphor for insight that I refer to as “the shock of recognition”.

Karen Graffeo’s work has received grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and the Andy Warhol Foundation through Space One Eleven Contemporary Arts Center. Her work was published in Aperture Magazine. Her work is included in public and private collections in Japan, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, and Birmingham, Alabama. Her work is currently on display at the Museum of African History in Havana Cuba.

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