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Published: Thursday, 4/12/2007

Outsider artist opens a Hudson Gallery show

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Karl Mullen s work often features odd characters inspired by Irish lore. Karl Mullen s work often features odd characters inspired by Irish lore.
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The fellow with the crown keeps appearing in the paintings of Karl Mullen, who brings art and music to the Hudson Gallery in Sylvania Saturday night.

"I paint a lot of the same motifs over and over again. And sometimes I say I'm not going to do that guy with the crown again," said Mullen of Philadelphia.

During the reception, he'll sing original and Irish songs, accompanying himself on guitar, bouzouki, and tin whistle.

Mullen's art fits into the increasingly appreciated genre known as outsider/self-taught or folk art, generally considered to be the work of people who are motivated more by unique personal visions than by mainstream art.

"I used to work on car hoods and leaves and found objects," said Mullen, 52.

In addition to brushes, he paints with his fingers and hands, using a blend of raw-powder pigments, walnut oil, and a wax medium to create odd characters often inspired by Irish lore, against luminescent backgrounds.

Karl Mullen s work often features odd characters inspired by Irish lore. Karl Mullen s work often features odd characters inspired by Irish lore.
Enlarge

Born in Ireland and reared in a large family in Dublin, he says he wasn't a very good student. He moved to the United States in 1976, traveling, working odd jobs, painting, and playing music.

About five years ago, he set up a table at a street-art festival and sold a couple of paintings. Then, he went to a folk-art festival in Atlanta where Duff Lindsay, owner of the Lindsay Gallery in Columbus, was wowed by his work.

"The colors are so rich and striking. It doesn't look like anybody else's," said Lindsay, who represents Mullen. "There's a really direct quality about it. ... He says it's the Irishness."

A few weeks later, Lindsay invited him to a show in the resort village of Harbert, Mich., north of Chicago. They sold 30 of his works.

That's where Scott and Barbara Hudson, owners of the Hudson Gallery, discovered Mullen. They'll feature about 80 of his pieces, which sell for several hundred dollars for smaller works, to $2,000 for pieces about 58-by-40 inches.

Mullen, who will also exhibit at the Intuit Show in Chicago's Merchandise Mark at the end of the month, likes painting on old books. "I like the way the paper absorbs especially with the walnut oil. It goes right into the fiber. I wipe off the excess."

On the pages of a ledger dating to the 1860s, he "collaborated" with the ledger keeper by incorporating his own images into scrolling words and numbers penned nearly 150 years ago. On a bill for a pair of boots, he drew boots; the curve of a signature became an arm, the letter "o" became an eye.

"I'm always seeing patterns and images in lots of contexts," he said.

Opening reception for the Karl Mullen show will be 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday in the Hudson Gallery, 5645 North Main St., Sylvania. The show continues through May 12. Information: 419-885-8381 or www.hudsongallery.net

Contact Tahree Lane at:

tlane@theblade.com

or 419-724-6075



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