Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Karen Moriarty


David Tanner

Whatzup Features Writer

Published December 23, 2004

Heads Up! This article is 18 years old.

One of a recognizable, yet small, cache of local

plein air or, outdoor, painters living and

working in Fort Wayne, Karen Moriarty stands out

as an inner-directed, Zen-like chronicler of the

outdoors and the subtleties of nature who has

found success in several other areas of

expression. Her impressionist portraits of

gardens and natural scapes are widely collected

and appreciated along with her painted portraits

and lithe nudes, but she also charts places in

unconventional directions as she has within her

own life.

Nicknamed “Apple” by friends because of her

affinity and predilection to flora and

phototropism, the sixty-ish Moriarty renders what

she sees with an accurate eye and an intuitively,

deft technique. The girl’s got “hand,” as they

say.

“Some things are directed simply by the medium,”

she says of her various works that encompass

commercial, graphic and illustrative works which

even include courtroom-driven pieces. “If you’ve

got charcoal or a prisma colored pencil in your

hand, you’re directed to scale down the vision.

On the other hand, with a brush and an oil

palette, your canvas and vision expands from

being finger- and wrist-rendered to the kinetic

sweep of the whole arm.

“Gardens, flowers, the woods, the human figure,

they all attract my attention because they are of

nature. They each contain lines and elements that

are simple, elegant and sometimes they are even

organically complex.”

What appeals to me more than the substance of

Moriarty’s work is the style and sub text which

influences and guides its creation. Her intuitive

hand, or line, evokes a kind of rhythmic gesture,

as when she paints flowers that appear to glow

from within as they sway in the wind, reflecting

the changing sunlight. When she draws nudes her

hand seems more of an exact, life-form tracing

than an interpretation. She’s able to incorporate

the energy of the animate.

“It’s about getting it right,” Moriarty says,

“and that is a matter of training, vision and

centering.”

To explain her point the artist gives an example

of a Japanese artist she remembers from a PBS

show. “He is pictured standing silent, stoic and

still before a canvas.

“He stood there, reverent and meditative, for

more than a moment – his landscape or target in

crisp focus. Then he bowed, hand-clasped to the

subject. In an instant he exploded with his brush

upon the canvas, and within seconds he had

rendered his subject in its most minimal,

essential form. The artist channeled the energy

of himself and the subject within that moment,

and all within the blink of an eye! I admire and

aspire to that.”

Pretty heady for a girl who first discovered her

talent at a birthday party in Goshen when she was

five. “There was some kind of a contest at a

birthday party where we were to finish a drawing

in a coloring book with crayons. The setting was

in a garden, and I won the first prize. I’m not

sure why I won. Was it because I stayed within

the lines or because I went out of the lines? I

still think about that. It brought me a kind of

recognition and encouragement, and I’ve never

really stopped.”

After high school, where she edited the school

yearbook and learned about the processes of

publishing, writing and editing, she ended up at

the Fort Wayne Art School, where she studied

under Noel Dusenchon, John Ross, Russell Oettel,

Ruth Gibson and Forrest Stark.

From then up to the present Moriarty continues

to work variously as a freelance graphic

designer, interior designer and television

courtroom artist, all the while plying her

paintings and drawings through the Castle

Gallery, Artlink, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art

and via word-of-mouth.

Throughout her freelance career Moriarty has

dwelt on the leading edge of technology, and her

experience and knowledge provides a living

testament to the modern evolution of the graphic

arts.

“People today aren’t aware of the processes we

went through to produce printed projects,”

Moriarty says. “It’s simply amazing what has

evolved over a couple of decades. What can be

accomplished today with a mere couple of

keystrokes used to entail buckets of hours of

tedious hand-cutting with a mat knife [one for

each of four color separations] or hand-setting

type [individual letters were applied either by

cutting them out of a sheet and positioning them

or applying them via transfers]. Obviously it has

become easier, more accessible to many, but I

still, in certain circumstances, choose to do my

logos with Letraset.”

Moriarty’s lush paintings of today (Foster Park,

Lakeside and private gardens) seem derivative of

a master like Cezanne, but other self-admitted

influences in composition and style can be traced

to her former Fort Wayne Art School teacher

Oettel and the California painter Richard

Diebenkorn.

The artist also pays homage to two diverse

modern women painters, Jennifer Bartlett and Joan

Mitchell, although to my mind it is hard to find

a direct connection between the three of them.

But then that’s Moriarty and a part of her own

surprising nature. It’s one of her traits to

always be between things. Not a bad place to be

for it is in that realm that things come

together, exchange and expand.

As one would imagine, Moriarty is a founding

Three Rivers Food Co-Op member, frequents the

Cinema Center and confesses to liking all music.

She listens to Julia Meek on WBOI, plays old

editions of the Beatles and Rolling Stones along

with Ella Fitzgerald and currently enjoys all

“those breathy, angry, feminist girls” who talk

the talk.

In her latest incarnation Moriarty has embarked

on a new avenue that uses found objects like

wooden framed windows on which she paints flowery

scenes on the glass that incorporate the frames

as well.

The result is an amalgam of her tendencies

toward plein air and interior design. It is a

medium that suits her style and will most

certainly provide a portal into her next artistic

adventure.

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