by Natasha von Kaenel
Karl Hauser came to The Crucible as a highly trained artist, having received a BFA from Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When he first walked into The Crucible in 2013, he was immediately reminded of those years in art school, where he was surrounded by highly skilled people experimenting and testing the limits of their art.
In 2016, he joined our CREATE Program, giving him access to our studios, tools, and equipment, and started to sculpt and cast his fantastical sculptures in bronze, aluminum, ceramics, and glass. Karl is represented by Transmission Gallery in Oakland, where some of his work is currently on display.
We sat down with him to discuss his artistic process, his inspiration, and what initially attracted him to The Crucible.
Can you talk a little about your philosophy around creating art?
I’m kind of a contrarian. My goal is to make work people don’t want to buy or that they don’t like looking at. I don’t think I’m very successful at that. But that’s kind of the magic of it. If you decide you’re going to make something horrible and you succeed, then you’ve succeeded. But if you fail to make something horrible, is it really a failure?
What is your inspiration behind the sculptures and characters you create?
The art that I find most interesting is by self-taught artists, artists who are institutionalized, or what people refer to as ‘outside artists.’ I have a formal training in art, and that is where I learned to talk about how I see and perceive the world and manifest it. But I really wish I could do things the way I did when I was around six or seven years old. That’s what I’m trying to get back to, and one of the things I love about Youth Camps. I come in and see kids who are naïve about materials about technique, but they are very expressive. I always find that very inspirational.
What attracted you to the CREATE program?
I like to try new techniques, because you don’t know if they will work. The challenge makes it a fun and interesting process. The Crucible is a really good environment for people who want to experiment and work independently, and the CREATE Program lets people do that.
What new techniques have you been experimenting with lately?
I’m trying to be a little bit more direct with my castings, by making rigid molds from Styrofoam. I’m not really sure what the results are going to be. There’s a lot of experimental stuff with Styrofoam casting.
What keeps you coming back to The Crucible?
I appreciate that I can talk to people about art here. For me, that’s an important aspect to being an artist. You can certainly be an artist and not talk to people and be stuck in your studio, but at a certain point you think, ‘What am I doing here?’ You need to get out and talk about art. And there are a lot of very skilled people here renting studios, teaching classes, walking around. It’s very valuable to be able to discuss art with them.