The Bright and Bold Balance of Kristen Schiele By Emily Diamond

Expressionist painter Kristen Schiele moved to New York City from Berlin the week before the September 11th attacks. It was an extremely heavy time to arrive and wrought with anxiety, but within the sorrow she found it soulful to experience the city full of love and acceptance and brotherhood. “I still find New York City incredibly tolerant, diverse, and spectacular at night,” she says.

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Kristen uses bright colors in her work because it’s in her nature. Although she has become more disciplined in her work over the years, narrowing and layering the color to create a sense of light in the work, it always becomes a party. Moving to NYC was a change both geographic and artistic. In Berlin she was using a totally different palette inspired by the Eastern Bloc. Kristen wants to merge her two bodies of work she’s been making for the last three years: the patterned,

stenciled, airbrush silkscreen portrait works and the interior, theatrical landscape paintings. “I realize it is an issue of needing to scale it up, to open up movement and gestures in the work to translate what it is about the patterning, like a marker in space or time, that can give a scene a stylized noir experience,” she says. “You can read the work abstractly, or hopefully, feel a narrative.”

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Kristen’s turning point as an artist was a residency in Provincetown on Cape Cod where she made the work that developed her voice.

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Upon returning, Kristen met her life partner, Karl LaRocca (aka Kayrock). “I was doing silkscreening in my live/work loft in Bushwick, using cheap black and white print out paper that I would oil. It was punk and cheap and great.” Karl is a precision based mathematical master: musician, painter, designer, programmer, silkscreener. He runs a gallery and an amazing crew of printers in his space. “I think we are a good team in work and life, I respect him immensely, and we have a three-year-old kid together.”

Becoming a mother slowed Kristen’s production and she reached out to artists who were also recent mothers. “We bonded together and helped figure out how to get studio time, what kind of work to do to make a family life possible, what kind of family life is important. In my case, being a mom acutely focuses my attention on reaching and inspiring other people, everyone, anyone.” Kristen gains inspiration from her daughter too. “I am so inspired by her being, it is crazy love. I am full of energy and frustration at not being able to communicate it quickly, but I’ve learned patience and am strengthened by the people around me. We have many dinners, anything to stay at home, together as much as possible, and to keep life rich and inclusive.”

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“In my case, being a mom acutely focuses my attention on reaching and inspiring other people, everyone, anyone.”

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It isn’t easy balancing it all and Kristen misses going out to openings. “It is not possible to do this often, and to make my work with the intensity it needs and to be with my family. I often, especially during deadlines, get up at 3:00, 4:00 am and go to the studio.” Her new goal is to hit the town now and again after she reads her daughter bedtime books, so she can experience nighttime in the city that’s as bright and theatrical as her work.