Karen Antonelli's I Am The Weather series consists of two sets of atmospheric graphite drawings that began in November 2019. During the pandemic lockdown, the process of drawing became a slow meditation for Antonelli in a time of rupture in everything we thought we knew. The title of the her exhibition, “I Am The Weather,” is an homage to the artist Roni Horn, who made a series of almost identical head-and-shoulder portraits of an Icelandic woman standing in shoulder-high water. Looking back at the photographer, the woman’s seemingly neutral expression differs by the slightest degree, ranging from inscrutable to vulnerable. This artwork titled “You are the weather” intrigued Antonelli for years and still does. Horn’s artwork is a reminder of the subtle power of the ‘quiet’ image.
With the first drawing, Antonelli had the simple intention to smoothly cover a piece of paper with the slightest tone using a 4H pencil. "As I began this mediative process, my mind got distracted by the simple observation of how the graphite took to the paper. It leaped off into past and future; worries and arguments, things I need to do, and the equanimity was lost." Depending on her level of energy or anxiety, the pencil strokes showed to a greater or lesser degree. "I achieved runs of beautiful, even, soft strokes, then as my mind dashed off, I lost the looseness." After many attempts, Antonelli decided to let the drawing dictate where it needed to go––many artists have used “automatic drawing” as a form of revelation––and her drawings became atmospheric rather than the cloudscapes she first thought they were. A reflection of her quality of mind through a flow of time, sometimes just four sessions, sometimes a couple of weeks, Antonelli works until the drawing says, “no more, I’m done," until the thing itself is revealed.
Antonelli’s second set of drawings, I Am The Weather: Pathetic Fallacy, are evocations of places in her neighborhood. The title refers to a characteristic of art of the Romantic period, where nature is portrayed as reflecting human sentiment or emotion. At that time, painters like Thomas Cole traveled out of towns and cities to paint scenes on the edge of the wilderness and expressed nature in dramatic emotional ways that spoke to their feelings of nostalgic sadness as the wild continent of North America was increasingly being settled and tamed. During the early days of the pandemic lockdown, Antonelli was able to re-examine a similar interaction between nature and the man-made. In the drawing I Am The Weather: Pathetic Fallacy #2, the wooden utility pole and the tree dance together as cousins, against a darkening sky; one the reflection of the other. The time of day when the light from the sky just dips below the level of manmade light, called the “blue time” in photography, has a feeling of nostalgic melancholy. This quality of light suits the uneasy juxtaposition of rampant nature and the human desire for order and control. It’s the same juxtaposition Antonelli struggles with in her own nature and when creating her artwork.
Antonelli is an artist and educator living in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Born in England, she came to the US in 1994, originally to undertake a 6-month Residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha Nebraska. As a foreign national and an immigrant, Antonelli is concerned with ideas of memory, place, and displacement; of wilderness and our constructed environment, and our uneasy interactions with what we call “nature”. The way that she makes her artwork is as much about the process and the way that it shapes the expression as it is about the ideas themselves; She is equally maker and conceptualist. Antonelli's artwork encompasses drawing, photography, video, and installation. She has exhibited at Arnolfini Gallery and Bristol City Museum in the UK, and SilverEye, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Pittsburgh. Three of her large-scale drawings are in the permanent collection on exhibition at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. Her photography is in private collections in both the UK and the US. Antonelli holds an MFA from Vermont College, Vermont. She teaches photography in the BFA program at Point Park University and will be teaching a course in the Fall semester for Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Fine Art.
View Karen Antonelli's BoxHeart Exhibition, I Am The Weather, on exhibit from September 15th - October 15th, 2021.