Karen Hackenberg earned her BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1978, and now lives and works on a quiet bay near Port Townsend, WA. She takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the serious subject of ocean degradation, painting meticulous seascapes of beach trash with oil and gouache and employing a dual green and pop sensibility.
Hackenberg’s paintings are inspired by the incongruity of the manmade detritus found washed up on the otherwise pristine beach below her studio—plastic shards, plastic bottles, plastic toy animals, shotgun shells, and consumer product packages. With her ear to the sand for a close view, and in a semi-documentary style, she poses and photographs the flotsam on the beach where it strands, and uses these photos as reference for her paintings. The resulting compositions depict the beach trash as monolithic in the seascape, and provide visual metaphors for the overwhelming magnitude of the issue of marine debris. She Her work is influenced by Pop Art of the 1960s: Claes Oldenburg’s monumental everyday objects, as well as Ed Ruscha’s paintings combining marketing graphics with images of nature.