LOCATION GALLERY'S second location in the Savannah LGBT Center officially opened earlier this month, and its first solo exhibition is "Scenic" by Karen Abato, hanging now in the lobby.
“Scenic” is such a good fit for an introduction to this space, it’s almost serendipitous. Abato’s body of work is solely nature landscapes and female nudes. The juxtaposition of these works, in a subtle way, reminds us that bodies are just as part of nature as mountains or rocks, and it sends a message of acceptance that pervades the spot.
“I’ve had a difficult time showing nudes, even when I lived in Long Island,” recalls Abato. “Certain venues feel like it’s not appropriate. People don’t want their children to see bodies. These are human landscapes, right? Humanscapes.”
The pairing of bodies and landscapes is partly due to a visit that director Peter Roberts paid to Abato’s studio.
“For a long time, all I painted was nudes,” Abato says. “So [Roberts] came to my studio and saw landscapes and women’s bodies, and we decided that would be a nice combination.”
Roberts also chose to exhibit artists who identify as LGBT in the first exhibitions held in the Center.
“It’s a point of pride and it’s a point of inspiration for kids at risk, sort of troubled kids, troubled people, or parents of people in the LGBT community,” he explained. “It’s about inclusivity. The challenge for me is to curate and come up with ideas that are more inclusive.”
Hosting a show of female nudes painted by a proudly out woman bolsters the message of community and acceptance that the Center strives to provide.
Abato paints in a style that she terms “abstract realism” because her paintings are based on realism, but she always gives them a twist.
“All of these have been created by putting down a texture with a palette knife and staring at it until I find something,” Abato explains. “It can be women or it can be landscapes, it’s just whatever comes out. It’s whatever it tells me to do. What’s cool about it for me is that I don’t know what it’s gonna look like. I don’t usually have a plan, and it just happens. That’s the cool thing about the palette knife, is if you do something and then you look at it long enough, it kind of emerges, like a scribble drawing.”
Currently, Abato works as a credentialed and board-certified art therapist, and some of her techniques she uses in art therapy, like scribble drawing, come out in her work.
“There’s this open air technique we use that has to do with setting an intention for the day,” Abato explains. “So you draw and write, all on the same page, and you usually end up finding a solution. So I wrote this rant about forgiveness and this image arose, a pattern with a moon or sun and tumbledown rocks. That pattern is a theme in my work, and I’m not sure why.”
Abato got into the practice of seeking form from texture when she lived on Long Island as a grad student. She didn’t have the money to buy canvas, so instead she picked up driftwood from the beach.
“I would do oil glazes and I started to find bodies in the grain. It’s something you do when you don’t have money for a canvas,” she laughs.
“Scenic” will remain up at the Savannah LGBT Center through the end of September.