Karen Heagle's often tongue-in-cheek paintings use historically-derived allegory to interrogate themes of gender, sexuality, vanity, and eroticism. Inspired in part by her study of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting, Heagle's works take up still life and the genre painting as mutable formats to be invested with symbolic meaning, portraying animals, lava lamps, knights' armor, and characters from television dramas with subtle irony. Her paintings often include a kaleidoscopic treatment of color, amplified by the addition of metallic leaf onto her canvases, a material that anachronistically enhances her works' oblique commentary on contemporary culture.
Heagle, born 1967, grew up on a dairy farm in Tomah, Wisconsin. She earned her MFA from Pratt Institute in New York in 1995, and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sclupture two years later. She lives and works in New York.