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MSVU Collection

¤ Karen Thiessen

Date of Work
¤ 2001

Accession Year
¤ 2001

Accession Number
¤ 2001.2

¤ In storage

¤ Textile

Home » MSVU Collection » Karen Thiessen: Red: Red Star

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Karen Thiessen: Red: Red Star

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Karen Thiessen
(b. Leamington, Ontario; lives in Hamilton, Ontario)

Red: Red Star 2001
cotton and rayon fabrics; embroidery floss, cotton polyester sewing thread
66.5 x 62 cm
Purchased, 2001
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection

In this work, layers of fabric are sewn together creating a flag-like piece with a background pattern of stripes and a central star within larger overlapping squares. Karen Thiessen achieved the various shades of red fabric through natural onion skin dye, rust-staining and hand-painted pigments.

Red Star is part of The Red Series. In this series Thiessen explored the colour red and studied its meaning in other cultures. In an artistís statement about the series she explained that, in the past, she had only associated the colour red with war and violence. Also, as a strawberry-blonde in a family of red-heads, she was quickly taught the fashion error of wearing red. However, a year living in Singapore, (1996-1997), exposed her to a culture that looked at red in a more positive light. She found herself surrounded by the colour in her new environment and, consequently, it worked its way into her art practice. “I began to play with it and write about it...When red crept into a series of forgiveness quilts I realized that it was worthy of its own investigation.” Through her research she found that red can also symbolize courage, confidence, boldness, passion, good luck or fortune, strength, energy and Christís blood. She is now able to use red in her daily life without hesitation, including her wardrobe. She now believes, “For us all, (red) blood is life. Red has taught me well.” (About the Red Series, 2001, artistís statement)

Karen Thiessen grew up in Leamington, a Southern Ontario Mennonite farming community. She began to hone her sewing skills at an early age. Choosing to leave farm-life behind, she earned a BA in fine art and psychology at the University of Windsor (Windsor, ON, 1987), a textiles diploma from Sheridan College School of Craft and Design (Toronto, ON, 1996), and a BFA in Textiles and Art History at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (Halifax, NS, 1999). She also studied collage at the Dundas Valley School of Art. She received the prestigious Jurors Award for Fibreworks 2000, a biennial juried exhibition of Canadian fibre art. From 2002-2004, she was an artist-in-residence in the Harbourfront Centre textile studio (Toronto, ON). In 2009 she represented Canada in the Unity and Diversity show at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in Cheongju, Korea. Her work can be found in numerous public and private collections in Canada and England.

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