Jan Karlton 1939 - 1997
“HOW ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND” and assess the accomplishment of an artist who dies suddenly, in what would otherwise be the middle of her career? Jan Karlton’s work was interrupted, her oeuvre was left unfinished, by a fatal accident in 1997. This singular fact overlays our view of her work, its tragedy inescapable. Yet time spent with that work reveals an arresting artistic vision that would assert itself irrespective of the poignancy that necessarily surrounds it.
Karlton was a serious artist, an artist who worked hard for herself, an artist who was unafraid to reach deep into her psyche when the occasion demanded it. Although she herself made frequent references to artists from many different time periods, in her imagery, in her painting titles, and in her miscellaneous writings, I see her in her mature work as being essentially a spiritual heir of the German Expressionist tradition. Biting wit, a strong graphic impulse, and more than a pinch of angst inform her paintings, drawings, and prints. Whether painting people, animals, or, as she sometimes did, hybrids of the two, Karlton stripped her subjects to an essence and situated them in existential landscapes from which they peer out at us, ”Mutely demanding our recognition.”
Curator / Artist / Critic