A balance between the bizarre and beautiful finds its meeting point in the warped sculptural world of Karen Main. Her sculptures, which often feature tangles of eyeballs and teeth, look as if the innards of some strange creature have been turned inside out and are now looking to consume whatever lies in their general proximity. So realistic are her paint and polymer clay textures, that if Main weren't creating sculptural objects, then perhaps she would be creating special effects for body horror king David Cronenberg or Guillermo del Toro's fantasy horror fixations.
Main, who is based in Southeastern Connecticut, tells Creators that she is self-taught at sculpture, and has been working with polymer clay for the last six years. Originally, she bought the clay on a whim. Like anyone who has taken a high school art class, Main recalled the "sloppy brown clay" that people use to make "shitty ashtrays," so she had very low expectations for what she could actually do with the medium.
Nevertheless, she surprised herself with her own skills. The work she is making now, which she showcases on her Instagram account, Dogzilla Lives, is influenced by drawings she made over the years that included conglomerations of eyes in her "gritty, tangled mutants and monsters," as she calls them.
"I never thought I was that great at drawing, but once I started sculpting I found it easier to bring to life what I couldn't quite achieve with a pencil and paper," Main says. "I never thought they'd take on a life of their own, or inspire others to create similar work."
Main's influences may surprise people, as she draws inspiration from nature, particularly the ocean. Part of her process involves finding interesting textures, photographing them, and incorporating their appearance into her sculptures.
People assume Main is into horror movies, but it's not exactly true—she says she's more into "cheesy, barbarian-themed movies." That said, Main is a big fan of The Thing, Alien, and, of course, Evil Dead, which people might assume if they recall the book Necronomicon, which features prominently in Sam Raimi's classic horror film.
Main also finds visual inspiration in the works of artists like Ernst Haeckel, Hieronymus Bosch, H.R. Giger, and Lisa Frank. She enjoys work with lots of little, intricate details, which finds its way into her own sculptures.
"That's something I put a lot of effort into," says Main. "And I appreciate seeing those things in other's art, in any medium."
When creating her work, Main rarely sketches anything out. Sometimes she lets the clay guide her, freestyling in a way that she compares to doodling with pen and paper. Primarily she works with Super Sculpey polymer clay, though recently she has been experimenting with other sculptural media.
As far as sculpting tools, Main prefers knitting needles, and uses things like shells and rocks to help achieve textures she finds in nature. She then paints everything by hand, including the eyeball irises, using acrylics.
"It's hard to say where an idea comes from," Main muses of her artistic process. "You could be looking at a pile of slimy baked beans and think 'Hey, that'd look especially disgusting if it were a skin-toned mess—I'll get right on that.'"
Main will be exhibiting several works at the Ars Necronomica at exhibition at Woods-Gerry Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island from August 17–30. Click here to see more of Karen Main's creepy cool sculptures, and here to purchase some of her original works.