Samples of the artist’s work, including a self-portrait. Courtesy photos
Samples of the artist’s work, including a self-portrait. Courtesy photos


Wielding vibrant oil paints, artist Karen Holtzclaw conjures creatures who have a lot to tell us about the state of our world. Her newest collection, entitled “Ponderings,” recently exhibited in the Bellevue Gallery at the Farmer House Museum, 529 N. College, is one such example.  

The golden fish, gaping frogs, and other aquatic animals initially look cheery, but closer inspection suggests something sinister. In one work, a honey bee peers out from behind a gas mask. In another, Holtzclaw’s bright fish turn skeletal as they swim through hazardous waters. “We’re being warned by our friends that the environment is not very healthy right now,” Holtzclaw says.

Born in Ohio, Holtzclaw grew up in Anderson, Indiana. “I played in the woods a lot,” she recalls. Those early experiences in nature influence her work. She began painting in 1970 while working in a frame shop with a friend. “It just kind of grew from there,” Holtzclaw explains. “I paint as much as I can. I’m drawn to do it. It’s my life.”

Holtzclaw moved to Bloomington in 1979, and over the years she’s exhibited her work within the Bellevue Gallery’s many different locations, as well as at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center. Now she’s working on a new series. “They’re kind of a take-off on what I’ve been doing except I think I might go on land,” she says.

Holtzclaw recently retired after working as an art instructor at Stone Belt, a nonprofit agency that provides education and support to people with disabilities.