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Karen Ocker

2020 State Fellow

Karen Ocker

Recipient Information


New Orleans, Louisiana


Oil Painting

Year of Award


Grant or Fellowship

Southern Prize and State Fellowship

Grant Amount


Artist Biography

Karen Ocker is an award-winning New Orleans artist. Her work has been included in exhibits at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, CANO, McKenna Museum of African American Art and A.I.R. Gallery, New York. Her work has appeared in Day for Night, the 2006 Whitney Museum Biennial Catalog, two covers of Offbeat Magazine’s “Jazz Fest Bible,” an All-State NBA Allstar weekend promotion, and in the recently released Netflix  feature film Tall Girl. Her work can be found in collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, Memphis Blues Hall of Fame, and Luciano Benetton’s imago mundi collection in Italy.

Artist Statement

My working medium is directly influenced by my grandmother, who introduced me to painting as a small child. The floods that followed Hurricane Katrina were the pivotal moment that changed my trajectory. I abandoned working as a graphic designer, and began painting full time. It felt like the world had ended. I had nothing to lose. My materials are influenced by the new tools that I learned to use rebuilding my flooded home and materials amassed from debris piles. My work gives new life and beauty to things others have discarded. This series of paintings pays tribute to the music, history, magic and indomitable spirit of this place, even in the face of devastation, tragedy or loss.

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