Artist statement

American Empress stencils by Karen Miranda Augustine

My work is a mashup of indigenous spiritualism, popular culture, the metaphysical and outsider Zen.

I create two-dimensional, mixed-media art out of found materials, beadwork, Haitian drapo, embroidery, and paint in a way that could be loosely described as low-relief assemblage.

These works are centred around a degraded photograph — usually stencil, photocopy, image transfer, or découpage — as it’s in the raw, primitive imprint of my subject where I find the most interest.

I am inspired by female outsiders and empathize with life experiences they may encounter, which are often stigmatized within the mainstream. Through my work I attempt to visualize respect for my subjects’ dignity, celebrate the uncelebrated, and give reverence to those who are often unrevered.

Using contemporary, mystical, and cultural references, I focus on uniting the sexual, the soul wound, and the sublime in ways that are deeply rooted in indigenous Caribbean, West African, and Buddhist spirituality to meditate on violence and harm, grief and serenity, exaltation and delight.

Whether filtered through the media, personal experiences, mythology, or casual observation, I like to dig into the intimate details of my subjects to get a sense of their true heart and connect that to the place where our earthly conditions converge with the Unseen.

For these very reasons, I classify my work as ritualistic pop art.

My underlying themes dwell on how shared experiences interconnect us and how our journeys through affliction can take us to a place of self-possession.