Karen Hochman Brown’s Shoreline Symmetry

Karen Hochman Brown, Shoreline Symmetry at California Center for Digital Arts. Photo credit: Kristine Schomaker.

Shoreline Symmetry: Seas Both Fragile and Grand

Karen Hochman Brown

at California Center for Digital Arts

Through September 29th


By Genie Davis

As always, Karen Hochman Brown creates mesmerizing art that layers images to create an ever-expanding, rich and varied landscape that is somehow both internal and external. With Shoreline Symmetry at the California Center for Digital Arts in Santa Ana, she’s moved into a new realm, one that appears spiritual and dream-like. Rather than purely abstract compositions, she has created landscapes that seem not of this world, though born from it. The images are both surreal and intensely realistic; beyond nature and embracing of it.

These are exhilarating works with lush color and mind-bending images. Her depiction of nature and our world dives into the depths of consciousness, memory, and impulse. If these are images of the natural environment, that environment goes beyond the physical in which our bodies dwell. It travels inward to the spirit, to our structure, to what perhaps could be the molecular structure of all things living.

Past works have found Hochman Brown referencing kaleidoscopic images that seem floral and in bloom, contained outwardly in a meticulous pattern, but unconstrained at their core. These works are broader, bigger, and elegant; vast in a way that moves beyond concepts of physical space and into the idea of a spiritual space. Her tapestry-like compositions here have become expansive – she is weaving an entire world.

Working with digital photography, editing software, and depictions of sea, sky, and ocean flora, she shifts images to the point in which they become almost three dimensional. To look into her work here is to slip into a rather glorious abyss; one could fall off the end of her world and into a completely different space.

Both meticulous and magical, Shoreline Symmetry highlights both the grandness, scope, and scale of the ocean, and it’s fragility. These are firmaments, unreachable horizons, pearled and glowing with light. But take care with them: their beauty seems breakable.

Take Hochman Brown’s “Winged Warrior.” Here a doubled image, infused with a mysterious light, rises up from the sea. It references a seemingly Biblical iconography as well as patterns of weather; it reminds the viewer of the fierceness, wonder, and balance of nature. To have created this moment, what has man done? What is man in the face of this world. We are encouraged to look at a landscape that leads us within ourselves and through, to a place equally vast and strange.

A vision in blues, her “Sky Goddess” is like a blue flame; the shape in the sky she depicts has a Zen-like calm; the tide, too, though ruffled and opalescent, seems calm, paused, waiting. But the deeper waters are dark.

Or, what of “Arching and Uplifting Five” — a work that seems caught between an external nature and our own.

“Surf at Honolua Bay” gives us a beautiful Hawaiian ocean shoreline. It is compacted, compressed at the bottom of the image, while above the sea, a transcendent image swirls like a blessing, albeit one tinged with warning.

A benediction and a caution: the artist’s work is filled with a palpable grace and wonder joined with watchfulness, mystery, and a fearsome awe. We cannot define or contain it – but neither can we define or control the sea itself.

The exhibition runs through the 29th.


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