artist statement

Hope. Struggle. Grace. Fragility. Complexity. These are some of the words that I try to portray when depicting my urban landscapes. Appreciating cityscapes requires embracing all aspects of them, from the refined to the gritty. In a larger sense, I view these cityscapes as a metaphor for passing through life.

I use architectural elements, often in the form of freeway columns, telephone poles, and construction scaffolding, to provide structure. Barbed wire, traffic signals, and hazard signs depict ideas of strife and despair, while exaggerated perspectives create psychological tension. In contrast to the darker elements, the use of backlighting represents hope and dreams.

During the process of drawing or painting, I continually rework and adjust the line work and stroke marks. The remaining surfaces retain fragments of this scrubbing out and building up, which not only leaves a visual history of my approach, but also creates content for the work.

The places I represent are often lost, forgotten, or overlooked, yet have a strong sense of form and history in their own right. All of my works are devoid of human figures, yet many contain house or roof shapes that symbolize life within the landscape.

Humanity engages in a constant balancing act of creation and destruction. It is the reciprocity between these opposing forces that is the focus of my work. My newest work continues to be a representation of these universal concepts while addressing more socially and historically specific issues of place, displacement, and the meaning of home.


Karen Jilly was born in Los Angeles, California in 1956. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and pursued graduate studies in drawing and painting at California State University, Long Beach prior to relocating to Arizona in 1994.

Alternative Beauty: The Work of Karen Jilly, a twenty-five-year retrospective, was featured at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in 2017. Her art can be seen in numerous public collections including Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona State University Art Museum, Janet Turner Print Museum at California State University, Chico, and corporate collections in metropolitan Phoenix. Her work is also held in private collections in the United States and Europe.

Ms. Jilly has served on Executive Boards of Directors for museums in both Arizona and California. She has been an invited artist at the publishing companies of Armstrong-Prior, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona, Segura Publishing of South Bend, Indiana (formerly Tempe, Arizona), and Santo Press in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Cattle Track Arts Compound. Karen’s artwork has been featured in publications such as Fresh Paint Magazine, American Art Collector, ArtesMagazine, The Arizona Republic, and The Los Angeles Times.

After years of dividing her time between Arizona and California, Karen permanently relocated to Los Angeles in 2017.