Profile: Melissa Karner ('17)

New York
United States
37° 5' 24.864" N, 95° 42' 46.4076" W

I met Melissa Karner last year in Drawing I and immediately her work stood out to me. She captured the body in such an interesting way combining her play with composition and careful attentiont to detail. Melissa is a multi-disciplinary student majoring in both Ecnomics and Fine Art. She complements her rigid economics practices with studio time. Recently, she was awarded, by Joann Carson at our Student Show in the Fingenstein Gallery, for having one of the top three pieces in show. Dealing mostly with how the female body is portrayed Melissa is creating fresh, interesting and groundbreaking art. Let's hear what she's been working! 

Name: Melissa Karner

Year: Senior

Major(s): Economics and Art

Minor: Statistics 

Hometown: Franklin, MA

Zodiac sign: Aries

Social: WS: IG: @melissakarner for art/writing & @brianenos.daughter for everything else


When did you discover your love for art?

I remember I was always finger-painting and drawing as a kid. I gravitated towards creating my entire childhood, so I think that’s when I discovered my love for art. However, I didn’t really get into making art as practice until high school. I took advantage of studio classes and night classes to really hone my technical skills. I originally wanted to go to art school but decided Economics/Math was the way to go (Lol). But in the last year or so I really rediscovered my love for art and that’s when everything starting coming together and my art career set off.


What artist’s are you influenced by?

I’m influenced mainly by two periods/movements. The Modern period in paitning has really influenced how I paint. I’m attracted to the movements of the brushstrokes and use of non-traditional color. Although my style fluctuates, I’m always looking at artists like Manet, Cezanne and many of the impressionists. My subject matter, however, has always been influenced by female artists. From Georgia O’Keefe and Frida Khalo to Tracy Emin and Joan Semmel. Regardless of the time, I’ve always been fascinated with women behind the brush (and as subjects of paintings as well). I think it’s so important to continue in the path of these feminist artists and continue to produce art of women by women.


What is your latest project are you working on?

I’m currently working on a series of large-scale paintings of portraits of women. Each painting is finished with a saying or thought by me or the woman I’m painting. For example, the series includes paintings titled, “He Ain’t Shit” and “I’m very pleased (& it’s not b/c of you)”. As I work through the series I’ve been overcome with pure joy because of how empowered and beautiful these women I paint are. The series shows women reclaiming their identity and expressing female empowerment, it’s quite an amazing experience. I don’t think the series will ever be finished because there’s an infinite amount of women I’d want to paint, talk to and then share with the rest of the world.


How do you choose your subject when beginning a new painting?

My subjects are always women. I’m constantly snapping photos of myself, friends and sometimes, even strangers. Anytime I’m in the mood to paint (which is most days) I go through these photos and pick the one that’s speaking to me the most that day.



What inspired you to make “Donuts” and “Nectar”? How did you come up with these names?

Writing has always been something I’ve been hesitant about. I was never considered someone who was an amazing essayist and Lit. classes were always a drag for me. But, poetry just came to me. Before I started writing, I would read pages and pages of poetry hoping one day I’d be as good as the published writers. It wasn’t until about a year ago I decided to just start writing my thoughts down. A lot of “Donuts” comes from traumatic experiences in my past, all things that I just needed to 'vomit' out of me. As I was writing, I realized the word donuts kept coming up. And then I started referring to my vagina as a donut. Then, it just caught on. It’s playful and fun and I love the idea of everyone having their own type of donut, their own flavor. Nectar, which is about love & other things, I started only about two months ago. I’m not really sure where “Nectar” came from, but I started using it as a term for female bodily fluids.


How do you blend your talents of mathematics and art?

Honestly, I don’t really blend them that much. So much of what I do out of the studio is very structured and rigid. I have a passion for quant and statistics, but I wouldn’t be able to bring that to the studio with me. I find it truly meditative to go into the studio and get away from all of the numbers and graphs and just paint with no guidelines, no straight lines and definitely no computer software.


Most influential professor at Pace: Jennifer Schwarting J

Fun Fact: I was a competitive figure skater for 15 years of my life. I would train almost everyday and I only stopped when I moved to NYC. (& I haven’t skated since).