Karen Campbell is a school teacher by day and a visual artist the rest of the time. One of three visual art teachers at North Gwinnett High School, Campbell is a veteran high school educator who has served Gwinnett students for 27 years, including four years at Meadowcreek, 18 years at Collins Hill and she began her fourth year at NGHS last month. Her artistry, fueled by her background and degree in integrated arts curriculum and instruction, has not only inspired students, but as of Aug. 18, it also offers inspiration for the community at large.

The Sugar Hill Art Gallery is currently home to Campbell’s “Visual Playlist” exhibit, on display now through Sept. 29. The exhibition is her first solo show and officially opened with a reception on Aug. 27. The exhibit features 38 mixed media drawings on display. 

“The media includes watercolor, acrylic, gouache, colored pencil, and various ink pens applied more in the manner of drawing rather than a true painting,” Campbell said. “Often, images are drawn on a separate piece of paper and carefully cut out and applied to the support (either paper or canvas).” 

As you view the “Visual Playlist,” you may recognize some of the titles, images, or text within the work from popular music. Some pieces are easily connected to a musical artist or group of songs, while others have a more subtle connection. 

“It is important to note that the work is not an illustration of the song, but a space created for the personal and emotional response to the song to play out,” Campbell said.

Having spent the better part of the past three years working on these pieces, Campbell expressed her gratitude for the warm reception she received at the official exhibit opening.

“I could not have scripted a better opening reception,” she said. “I am so grateful for the love and support of my family, friends, the Sugar Hill Arts Council and the Sugar Hill/Suwanee community. It was truly special for me to get to share this body of work from the last two to three years with an enthusiastic and inquisitive audience who love art and music as much as I do!” 

Artist statement for “Visual Playlist”:

We all have songs that move us, remind us of a special time, and speak to that which we feel is important. Curating that music into a playlist or mixtape is a way of documenting and capturing who and where we are and how we are feeling at a particular moment in time. Playlists are the soundtracks to our lives and in sharing them with others, we allow ourselves to become vulnerable. We are not just sharing music we like, but also the feelings and experiences they represent. The selected drawings create visual environments that allow the consequences and rewards of emotions, memories, dreams, and desires inspired by the music to unfold. The compositions are carefully orchestrated, inviting the viewer to get lost in the layers of imagery, color, text, and mark making in the same way as one would get lost in a song. Happy “listening”!

To see more of Campbell’s work, visit karenscampbellart.com.

If you go

  • What: “Visual Playlist” art exhibit by Karen Campbell 
  • When: Now through Sept. 29, times vary, so call the gallery at 678-541-6125 to ensure it’s open
  • Where: Sugar Hill Art Gallery, 5010 W. Broad St.
  • Cost: Free
  • For more information: Visit cityofsugarhill.com
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