Karen Nierlich: my children led me into the world of photography

Albany artist Karen Nierlich smiled at her photo show “Fragile and Resilient”at Albany Art Gallery. Nierlich wrote an article below about how her children helped her to enter the fascinating world of photography. Photo by Linda(Linjun) Fan.

As they say “kids change everything”. When I had my second child, one change I made was switching from painting to photography. I’d been a painter for 20 years, but now as a parent with two kids, I found I had little time for the solitary and intensive pursuit of painting.

Instead I spent a lot of time outdoors with my children or watching them make things. I found photography fit with the wandering and creative time I spent with my kids.

This was my initial artistic inspiration- That winter there was a great deal of rain. I noticed all this gorgeous moss that had sprung up thanks to the rain, and of course, it was the most captivating shade of green. I tracked down spots on the sidewalks where it was clinging to lines, bricks or grids or other interesting patterns on the sidewalks. Those became my first series of photographs.

Sometime after the moss left a most incredible thing happened. One morning my husband and I were reading the paper on a Sunday morning. I went out to see what the kids were doing in the backyard. They were playing with this doll house furniture a friend had dropped at the house. The furniture was very beautiful, detailed, precise, and also old and coming apart.

They’d filled buckets with water and used chalk to draw rivers of blue on the concrete. My son had taken a big blob like clay sculpture he’d made the week before and broken it into lots of small pieces and lined them up into undulating lines. I ran to get my camera to photograph the wet clay rocks, water, chalk, and miniature furniture. There were plastic bath toys like a big red octopus as well. I’ve called this scene “The Flood” ever since. It was a defining moment for exuberant, messy action art in our lives.

Nierlich’s son, Calder Abbott, created a meandering line of wet clay pieces.

*Karen Nierlich has a degree in fine art from the Chicago Art Institute. She and her family live in Albany.

Photo Show “Karen Nierlich: Fragile and Resilient” takes place at Albany Arts Gallery, 1251 Solano Avenue, Albany, with an artist’s reception on Sunday, June 7, 4-6 p.m.


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