March 13, 2014 in Washington Voices

The Verve: Mobley’s upbringing in Wyoming shaped her love of nature

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Karen Mobley has been in arts administration for more than 30 years, including 1997 to 2012 as the arts director of Spokane. She is still involved in city arts but is now focusing on her own work, which includes painting, drawing and poetry.
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Art quote of the week

“I desire more than the need, to survive not die. 

I desire the strength to live on a rocky face in the cloud forest of Africa

like this saint - Saintpaullia.”

From Karen Mobley’s poem “Saintpaullia – In Praise of African Violets”

Karen Mobley shares simple pleasures, fleeting thoughts, moods, experiences, and memories of people, places, and things that have, in some way, left their mark on her.

To return the favor, she represents all of these things with her own markings in words, lines and shapes. A painter and a poet, Mobley enjoys all aspects of nature.

“Many of my works feel formal or abstract, yet the basis for the structure or idea often comes from a walk in the neighborhood, a visit to a park or natural area or a place where I see something that I find peaceful, curious or beautiful,” she said. “Sometimes the nature, birds or animals that I draw or paint can be stand-ins for something else – a person, a mood, or an experience.”

From hummingbirds frolicking under the sun and moon to abstracts or simple large-scale gestures that lead a viewer to thoughts of moving water or shadows of something more, Mobley’s representational or atmospheric work done in charcoal, pencil or mixed paints inspires thought.

Mobley grew up in Wyoming where she spent summers on an elk refuge, shadowed by mountains. Her father was a game warden and her mother was a writer. Mobley still has an acrylic painting that she did in the eighth grade. It hangs in her home and is a depiction of White Mountain, a towering display of beauty that she looked at often as a child, and where her parents’ ashes are scattered.

In her senior year of high school, Mobley was a Rotary exchange student in Australia. She went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Wyoming, took graduate courses in art history and traveled extensively throughout Great Britain, France and Switzerland and finished with a master of fine art degree from the University of Oklahoma.

For more than 30 years, Mobley has been in the business of art as a director or administrator in galleries and museums while creating her own bodies of work and doing things like legally serving drinks out of the back of her car at parties for extra cash.

Over the years, Mobley has had more than two dozen solo exhibits and dozens of group exhibits, has work in more than 75 public and private collections, has participated in poetry readings and artist conferences as a presenter, been involved in many art organizations, featured in many publications as a writer and painter, and won awards. Through March, you can see her work on the walls of Express Employment Professionals, 331 W. Main Ave.

In 1997, Mobley moved to Spokane to serve as the arts director, instigating and being a part of art events and public installations and bringing color, culture and eye candy to the city. The city dismantled its arts department in 2012. Mobley now serves as a part-time program manager for the Spokane Arts Fund and has more time for her own endeavors, sharing her experiences, leaving her mark, and serving as a catalyst of thought.

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