During excavations in Italy, where Oremus was the technical drawer, she came across human remains, a first-time experience. “That was a difficult moment for me. The situation was dealt with very clinically, but I was emotional. I thought how unpredictable life was. This was the moment that I decided to leave archaeology and work full time as an artist and educator.” Oremus’ work since this time centers around the theme of life’s fragility.
Karen Oremus can trace back her passion for the arts to primary school. In the years since, the Department of Fine Arts Chair has turned that love into her profession, having showcased her work in more than 15 countries.
The Canada native has always loved the element of surprise, which is why she is drawn to both printmaking as a medium and why she studied and worked in archaeology. “Both processes are about opening up surfaces. The physical and tangible characteristics of making an etching plate, combined with chance and the element of surprise are exciting to me. Through the addition and subtraction of materials in printmaking, the components are transformed. Unearthing the strata in excavation results in a constant uncovering of history; each level unshrouds a new image,” said Oremus.
In recent years, her work focuses on conceptually visualizing the invisible with the assistance of various branches of science. “In recent work, I aim to map out unknown locations through imagined cartographies, which conceptually depict utopia, heaven or other realms that we know about through some description but cannot actually arrive to. I have been working with scientific pinpointing of locations that we cannot visit or experience fully, such as the stars. I also continue to explore mortality, ephemerality and the fragility of life through the examining of practical experimentation in microbiology, human microbiome, genetics, microscopy, neuroscience, brain tissue and memory from a fine art perspective,” said Oremus.
In addition to her impressive work, Oremus also has made a name for herself as a gifted educator. Nearly two decades ago, she was recruited by Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates to establish the first printmaking discipline in the nation’s capital. After being there for 15 years, she also contributed to the establishment of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises in her previous tenure as assistant dean.
“When I first arrived to the UAE there was little understanding of the arts and art appreciation. The country was so young that art education didn’t exist in schools. No one took art seriously,” Oremus said.
She was an advocate to educate the institution and the community on the importance of art and art education.
VISUALIZING THE INVISIBLE
She helped create art curriculum for not only Zayed University, but for the country’s K-12 schools. The goal, she said, was to graduate Emirati nationals who would then return to schools within the country to teach art. When she left the position, her program was successfully accredited and students were showing their work around the globe, instead of parking lots and malls, which were their previous options. Most rewarding to Oremus was the hire of her former student, the first full-time Emirati faculty member on the Abu Dhabi campus. “It came full circle. I felt complete. It was time for me to return to North America, and Winthrop was a perfect fit for me,” Oremus noted.
Since she joined Winthrop in 2018, Oremus has been impressed with the quality of work and drive that students and faculty have displayed. “It has been an amazing journey, and I’m really grateful to be amongst this community of incredible faculty and students,” said Oremus.
Karen Oremus Animation Stills: Obscure Locations: In Search of Paradise
Karen Oremus Obscure Locations: In Search of Paradise Installation: A series of sequentially laser engraved/cut paper and card with etching, screen and pigment printing | Each Artefacts/work: 15x23 cm | 2017
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