AIDS Vancouver Fundraising Partnership

Karen Santos


Karen Santos is a Mexican artist who has been devoted to the arts and to painting since she was four years old. She began her artistic training at an early age under the close tutelage of her mother, an avid painter, art teacher, and art psychologist herself. Karen continued her studies with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from the University of British Columbia. Karen has subsequently completed a second Bachelor of Arts in Opera and Performance at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Given her background, Karen’s work is inspired by the relationship between art, music and psychology. Working often with mixed media, she creates abstract expressionist portraits of affects. Karen is an active member of the Seymour Art Gallery, Burnaby Arts Council and Port Moody Arts Centre Society. She has participated in various art exhibitions in the Greater Vancouver Area and has sold works internationally, including in Mexico and Australia. She currently lives in Vancouver and paints regularly while also embarking on her career in Opera Performance.

My work explores the symbiotic relationship between psychology and art. As a singer and a painter, I am interested in the portrayal or communication of our qualia. Qualia are “experiential properties of sensations, feelings, perceptions and, more controversially, thoughts and desires,” which are inherently subjective, as we can only experience or perceive feelings in our own mind. Our inability to explain or to share our own internal qualia means that we are alone in our own minds because we are only able to experience within our own consciousness. When plain language fails us, can we communicate our qualia through visual art? What is art for if not to communicate what language cannot? Can we, as a globalized collective, be more truly connected if we could communicate our qualia? Following a traumatic vocal injury, which partially prohibited me from communicating, visual art became the vehicle with which I could portray my ineffable raw feelings. When using mixed media, there is a process where as the artist I must surrender to a loss of control. This removes all inhibitions, thereby inducing the highest level of emotional honesty. The result is a colourful portrait of a psychological state of a given experience. An abstract snapshot, recording various psychological affects. Every step of my recovery is recorded in each painting as a reflection of the journey. My hope is that the viewer connects with the work and experiences an emotional journey of their own.

Printable Biography with CV and Artist Statement