Craft On Film Series

Don’t Know, We’ll See: The Work of Karen Karnes

Thursday, February 7
7:00 to 8:30 p.m., The Conference Center, Musser Auditorium


To promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft and celebrate the remarkable achievements of the many gifted artists today who are working with a variety of materials, Dr. Craig Edelbrock, Chancellor of PSGV, hosts a series of art documentaries focusing on the masters. The series kicks off with Karen Karnes, a master clay artist, and one of the pioneers of the 20th century craft movement.

For more than 80 years, Karen Karnes has been devoted to exploring beauty, light, and mystery through form. This intimate study of her work and life takes the viewer deep into the evolution of a single sculptural piece and a body of work over a lifetime. The film is an essential experience for artists of all kinds, for teachers of art, and for anyone with an interest in art, aesthetics, the origins of the American Avant Garde, and people’s intrinsic drive to capture beauty and mystery in a material form.


Potter and ceramic artist Karen Karnes (b. 1925) is a living national treasure.  Her life story reads like a fictional saga, starting at the legendary United Workers Cooperative Colony in the Bronx, and winding through iconic  communities such as Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and Gate Hill Community on Long Island.  Along the way we encounter some of the most creative luminaries in American history such as Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Harry Callahan, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Gropius, Alfred Kazin, M. C. Richards, Robert Motherwell, with cameo appearances by giants such as Bernhard Leach, Joshi Hamada, Arthur Penn, William Carlos Williams, and even Albert Einstein.   

 Her career parallels the blossoming of the studio craft movement in America, the rise of ceramics to a lofty level in the hierarchy of the arts, and the ongoing development of feminism and equality for women.  In no small measure, Karen Karnes contributed to all of these movements by living a most remarkable life devoted to producing abstract and functional pottery of the highest quality.  Her ties to Pennsylvania and Chester County are significant, having lived and worked in Stroudsburg early in her career and having Mary Caroline Richards (Kimberton, PA)  as a collaborator, business partner, and lifelong friend. 

Receiving the highest honor for craft in America, the Gold Medal of the American Craft Council in 1998, does not begin to indicate the depth of her achievements, her importance to American arts and crafts, or her influence on generations of artists and craftspeople who looked to her as the shining example of not only how be a craftsperson, but how to live one’s life.

 Further Information: 
The Film:

A Recent Biography: A Chosen Path

Biographical Interview.  Archives of American Art: