Description September 14, 2005 - Chicago Sun TimesBy KEVIN NANCE Art Critic And you thought surrealism was dead. In 'Surreal Hybrids,' her weird and wonderful new show Chicago painter Karena A. Karras proves that the grand if slightly nutty tradition of Max Ernst and Salvador Dali has life in it yet. Karras is part of a direct line that goes back to the movement's founding in the early 20th century, connecting with Ernst and Dali by way of two female Europeans who learned from their brethren and went on to find their own voices in Mexico: Remedios Varo, originally from Spain, and Leonora Carrington, the British expatriate who lived with Ernst and with whom Karras formed a friendship when Carrington lived in Oak Park. You see a lot -- occasionally too much -- of Varo and Carrington in Karras' work, but she's no pale imitation. Quite the opposite: She takes the best qualities of her predecessors' work (especially its ironic echoes of the Italian Renaissance) and intensifies them, then layers on her particular melange of psychology and mythology. In the process, she performs a virtuoso and oddly precise balance-beam act directly on the line between fantasy and reality. It's terrific, playful and seriously beautiful stuff, with a bubbling vitality all its own. As her title suggests, Karras fixates on the theme of metamorphosis, manifested here in the repeated morphing of the human figure (and specifically the human female) into states both animal and vegetable. A triptych, 'Flora, Fauna, Flora,' spells this out with a series of portraits of vampire-pale women with Modigliani throats, their scalps sprouting flowers or ferns, their chests adorned with garlands of petals, seed pods and insects. Ovid and the Greeks, accordingly, would have recognized these ghostly heroines, but they might have been puzzled by the sense that, unlike Daphne and other maidens cruelly transformed by lecherous or capricious gods, Karras' women are far from victims. The alchemy that en
Karena Karras Member Since September 2009 Artist Statement The paintings by Karena A. Karras reflect a metamorphosis involving the intrinsic interplay between the collective unconscious and the tactile realm of the senses.