Karen Maugans grew up in rural Vermont where her love of nature took root in her family’s gardens and apple orchards. Although she was surrounded by the majestic Green Mountains throughout her childhood, Karen’s artistic interests were more on the intricate details of small-scale botanicals, specifically foods and flowers.
Karen spent her junior year of college in Paris where her study of botanicals was broadened by her access to museums containing 17th century still life paintings. There, the beauty of nature was removed from the context of its origin, meticulously composed with other natural materials and man-made objects, then wrapped in light and shadows to create a sense of cohesive unity. In these museums, Karen learned through observation the importance of balance in light, scale, shape, texture and color for compelling imagery.
Commercial and portrait photography came first for Karen as a way of making a living and honing her technical and creative skills. In 2008, she took the leap to pursue fine art photography, specializing in still life compositions. The commercial and portrait work had well prepared her for transitioning to fine art, as she’d mastered complex lighting and compositional techniques and had gained confidence to expand into new territory career-wise.
An Asheville resident since 2017, Karen works full-time in her River Arts District studio/gallery. She’s been a Board member of the River Arts District Association since 2018, and began serving as President of RADA in 2021.
I love detail. I love facts. I love science and mathematics, the building blocks of our world. I love studying how natural materials are formed, and learning about how their individual parts work together toward a singular purpose. I never stop asking why and how. The spirals in seashells, the unfolding of flower blossoms and curls of smoke can all be explained mathematically, and, in my mind, are all the more fascinating when we understand that they follow a pattern of development that applies to most organic materials. In nature, there is always a purpose.
With photography, I compose and capture natural wonders and present them in ways that are intended to stop the viewer for a closer look and a few moments of pondering and reflection. Is this a painting or a photograph? I seek to bridge the gap between the tableau that the painter creates in his studio and the reality that’s rendered with a camera. I strive to reveal what nature has placed right under our noses, but which we often take for granted or entirely overlook.