Skills: Demonstrating Artist, Public Presentations, Teaching
Like many North Carolinians of their generation, Karen Lynch Harley’s parents, Nannie and Almorris Lynch, moved north in search of work. They settled in the Washington, DC area, where Karen was born and raised. Karen and her siblings absorbed much of their heritage as members of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe on summer-long visits to the elder Lynchs’ hometown of Hollister.
Karen Lynch Harley is most widely known for her painting. She has been painting and drawing since childhood, and received formal training at the Maryland art school where she earned her degree. Harley’s paintings are marked by a synthesis of aesthetic and cultural influences, drawing both from her Indian heritage and from the European Renaissance art that she studied.
Harley now lives in Hollister. “I like that close-knit feeling that you get around here,” she says. She has explored many traditional arts practiced today by members of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, including pottery, basketmaking, painting on hides, and making dolls. She learned pottery by observing Senora Lynch, a method that is typical of her approach to art. “I took what she taught me about pottery,” Harley says, “and incorporated it with my own love of sculpture.”
Harley attributes her artistic talents to both of her parents. Her mother was a skilled quilter, and she credits her father as the source of her broad curiosity; just as he acquired a multitude of skills through interest and observation, Karen’s creative curiosity has led her to express herself through many art forms. This multifaceted approach, she says, can be confusing to some audiences.
“I don’t want to be put in a box of just being an artist of one type…I know that some of the things I do don’t seem to be traditional. That seems to be a problem for people when you’re Native American, they want to think of you as a potter or a basket maker. Certain things go with the word ‘Indian,’ and that’s what [they think] you should do. I just like to do a lot of different kinds of art.”
“My work tells a story,” she explains, “and that is the most important thing to me, is to tell a story. I don’t do a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, as just something nice to look at. I want it to tell a story.”
Karen Lynch Harley will consider all requests for programming.