Artist's Statement

In order to understand nature and the increasing threats it faces, I started reading about biology. I chose books for the non-science major, since I have minimal science education. I learned that much of what goes on in biology is invisible, or hidden beneath the surface, or is so small that it requires concerted effort to examine. There are processes, forces, tiny intricate parts and endless networks. The miracle of it all is what inspires my art.   I attempt to imbue my pieces with qualities of the biological world: diversity, repetition, intricacy, rhythm, balance and interconnection.  Microscopic, botanical and anatomical structures provide me with an endless supply of elegant, quirky and elaborate shapes. My interpretations are joyful, yet stem from concern that the balance of nature is being irreversibly damaged.  They are often small and always full of detail, requiring you to take a close and thoughtful look.

Karen Steen

Karen Steen


As a child, I loved poking around tide pools.  Peering down into small worlds filled with life delighted me. I searched through seashore guidebooks to identify shells, anemones, and urchins. So began my fascination with biology and natural history, subjects that are now a visual and inspirational resource.  I began my art career as an illustrator. Many assignments were for magazine articles about health and medicine. Now, I combine the technical and conceptual skills I learned as an illustrator with the intuitive approach of a fine artist.

An important phase in my artistic life was a three year period when I served as Artist-in-Residence at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I assisted cancer patients with visual art projects to help reduce their anxiety, pain and loneliness. I learned first hand the power of nurturing creativity. While living in Bethlehem, I taught drawing at Penn State Lehigh Valley and led workshops for children of all ages.

In 2007 I earned an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, in Philadelphia, and in 1988 I earned a BA in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

Recent solo exhibitions showed at PHIL SWAN FIVE in Pasadena, CA, Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs and the Kansas City Artists Coalition. I won an Award of Merit at the Kansas City Artists Coalition 2017 fundraiser exhibition and 1st place in the 2015 group exhibition, HEAT, at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City. I have completed commission works for Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Kaiser Permanente’s Largo Medical Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. My work has appeared in solo and group shows in the mid-Atlantic, Southern California and Kansas City regions.