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Karen Rubado

Artist Profile: Karen Rubado

Written by Anusha Bhana for Art Ache

LOT23, 26th July 2018.

What happens to that meaning and value once an object becomes obsolete?

Do we take it and reassign it something else, something better? Do we take the time to question the journey the object has been on prior to being in our possession? Do we actively consider what happens to the object once it is no longer of use to us?

Karen Rubado’s practice is a culmination of these questions, an investigation into the nature of objects and the appearance – disappearance – reappearance of value. Taking these objects, most of which are destined for a landfill or a pile of inorganic waste awaiting collection on the side of the road, she literally weaves them into something beautiful and art gallery worthy. Therein lies the ‘value’ of her work.


Born in Christchurch, Karen spent the majority of her life in the United States living a somewhat nomadic existence with her parents. This gypsy-esque life of constant uprooting and replanting of her family in a multitude of locations made it relatively easy for Karen to return to her native New Zealand 13 years ago.

After completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts at AUT in 2015, Karen is now a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Elam School of Fine Arts and a practising contemporary artist. Her art practice is multi-faceted involving weaving, sculpture, installation, drawing and digital media.

The works themselves are varied, some are hanging tapestries interwoven with objects, usb cables, powerboards, VHS tapes, and others are more sculptural, large pieces of discarded metal again interwoven with a range of objects occupying large open spaces.

“The act of reconstructing refuse into art places value on the worthless, while also reintroducing it into society as something to be valued.”  – Source

Her art practice boldly delves into the fickle nature of our relationship with everyday objects, the unmaking and remaking process of these objects challenging the notion of value. The latest series utilises the out-moded craft of handweaving, a newly mastered technique inspired by a trip to Thailand last year.

“Through unmaking and making I contribute to and expand a material’s archive: collecting memories and experiences, and telling a story of people, places and things.” – Source

The marriage of disassembled mass-produced objects – complete with traces of human use, with delicate and time-consuming handiwork, draws these once useless objects into the forefront of a now ‘valuable’ piece of ‘art’.

Her most recent exhibition of work at the Auckland Art Fair 2018, entitled Current Situation, consisted of a hanging wall tapestry woven out discarded cords and cables, copper, wool and galvanised steel.

There is no doubt that Karen’s work is an all at once powerful commentary on our quite often self-indulgent consumerist society, challenging us to reconsider our materialistic tendencies.

Written by Anusha Bhana for Art Ache, 26th July 2018.

Event Press Release.

Art Ache Collection Artwork.

Further reading: Artists websiteInstagram  |  Art Fair 2018 project  |  Elam profile