Selfish Gene Series: Karen Gray’s Evolution-Inspired Monoprints


Karen Hansen Gray                                                                                               



Artist Statement


Evolution is a prevalent  theme in my current work.  I am intrigued by how and why living organisms adapt and survive,  re-examining  evolution in light of genetic discoveries,  and ultimately questioning  my own reality in the web of life.  I attempt to explore this theme through images; sometimes layered and complex, and at other times, symbolic and simple.


The Genera Series are monoprints* motivated by the two-hundredth anniversary in 2009 of Charles Darwin’s birth.  The series is a rumination on the theory of evolution; overlaying a chimpanzee skeleton with an inclining human body, showing a finch donning the mask of its altered brother,  and revealing Darwin’s reflection on this special occasion.


*A monoprint is one made from a plate with a reproducible image, but inked to produce a unique print.


I  examine three evolutionary paths in my work:


The first path explores the hypothesis that human evolution is something  we can control through our chosen behavior.  If we mate with an intelligent partner, our offspring will be smarter, or taller, or faster, as the case may be.  Evolution is treated as if each generation was a blueprint to be reworked by us,  regardless of the consequences.  The Iso Series are monoprints in which a bowing human form composed of contour lines  is repeated like a cookie cutter.  Iso means equal,  although in this series,  the original  lines were drawn freehand and thus flawed,  leading  to unpredictable outcomes in reproduction.


 The next  path suggests evolution is manipulated both by nature and the environment.  The influential entity could be as grand as the sky, the stars, the moon, and the earth, or as intimate as culture, language, religion, and spirituality.  The Shiva Series are monoprints  inspired by  auspicious Shiva who always adorns his coiled hair with a crescent moon.  Lunar phases are transformative and mark the cycle of time.  Also, Shiva represents a Supreme God whose influence has the power to convert our character, form, and function in this world.


The third path negates our evolution as whole beings, or rather proposes that it is our DNA which evolves independently and explicitly for the purpose of its own propagation and survival.  In The Selfish Gene Series of gouache paintings, the primordial struggle is happening but at the cellular level, completely out of our hands, and we are just along for the ride as a vessel.   


Artist Bio

Karen Hansen Gray is an artist exploring the theme of evolution through printmaking, painting, and sculpture.  She has studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the California College of the Arts.  Karen has resided and traveled in many countries,  from Afghanistan to Vietnam, but always returns to San Francisco to live and create art.  Her work has been shown at the Mendocino Art Center Gallery, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, City Art Gallery in S.F., Diego Rivera Gallery in S.F., and Espacio Palleros in Buenos Aires.

Karen attends northern California’s Burning Man festival and is a huge fan of the Cubitron 😉  You may contact her or find more of her work online at