Visual Poetry: Beaufort & Beyond
Poet/Photographer Karen Peluso Speaks a Lyrical Language of Black & White

Combining art, poetry and photography into stunning representations is the joy of writer/photographer Karen M. Peluso. She will bring her gifts as featured artist to the Beaufort Art Association Gallery, 1001 Bay Street in downtown Beaufort, on May 14 with her show titled “Visual Poetry: Beaufort and Beyond.” The opening reception will be Friday evening, May 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The works of more than 90 exhibiting members will be on display as well.

Karen Peluso grew up in northern New Jersey where at age ten she was writing letters and stories and taking pictures with her first Kodak camera. Her father’s darkroom and antique cameras intrigued her but were off-limits until she went to college. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts Education in 1971 from Montclair State College. She taught briefly and then enjoyed a long career as a medical office manager in South Jersey. While working she took numerous night courses, leading to the study of Advanced Photography with an Ocean City/Kodak photographer, Scott Griswold, Jr. Annual group exhibitions with Griswold and his students, and acceptances in juried shows spurred dramatic improvement in Karen’s photographs. She has since won numerous awards for her selenium-toned gelatin silver (black & white on fiber-based paper) prints that she produces in her darkroom. She signs and numbers each photograph in limited editions.

Ironically, it was a Griswold class assignment involving writing about photography that led Karen to return to writing. Then in a 1986 creative writing class, she fell in love, not only with poetry, but soon after, with a fellow student—her future husband, writer Clinton B. Campbell. With early retirement in 1999, Karen began publishing poetry and photography in journals and magazines, including Connecticut Review, Potomac Review, Paterson Literary Review, Apostrophe, The Journal of NJ Poets, and the new renaissance #38. Her first collection of poems is forthcoming from the University of South Carolina’s Stepping Stones Press as a winner of the 2006 SC Poetry Initiative Chapbook Contest. One of her new photographs, “Perpetual Meditation,” will appear on the cover.

Peluso’s fellow artists and art critics began to notice the “poetry” they saw in her art. In 1999 critic Ed Wismer reviewed her solo exhibit at the Ocean City (NJ) Arts Center: “Karen Peluso’s medium is black and white film. Her degree in fine arts education has served her well, as can be seen when viewing her atmospheric and poetic photographs. Her literary work also shows a strong influence in her choice of subject matter and its treatment.” He added, “Just words cannot describe her often-haunting photographs. She takes everyday places and things and turns them into something exceptional. An artistic triumph.”

Peluso’s photographs appear, too, in signed limited edition giclées (transfers to canvas or watercolor paper). In addition, she has recently taught herself the craft of hand-coloring black and white photographs with oils: “I am so excited to finally be doing what the masters (and my father) did generations ago.” For inspiration she has framed an old 5x7 photo of her dad wearing jodhpurs and riding boots while holding the reins of a horse. She’s hung it on the wall leading to her studio. “I love it because my father hand-painted it in 1941.” A select group of Karen’s hand-colored photographs will be featured in the exhibit.

In 1997 after visiting Ocean City friends who had moved to Sun City, Karen and her family began to spend winters here as snowbirds, the first two years on Fripp Island. But they wanted to live downtown “or at least within walking distance.” Now they live on the bluff of the Beaufort River, “exactly one mile” from the Beaufort Art Association Gallery. Karen joined the BAA because she “wanted to get to know people in this amazing arts community. We had joined the Arts Council of Beaufort, received their mailings and I wanted to get involved.” She added, “Sitting at the BAA gallery and helping to hang the exhibits has helped me get to know the people and personalities behind the names.” She says she’s learned a lot, too, from the more experienced members of the hanging committees. “It’s a challenge to display so many diverse genres and styles of art. But then someone found out I was a writer and asked me to help with publicity, too.” She adds, “It was scary at first, but it’s become a joy. Working under (publicity chair) Betty Betz’s loving guidance has not only helped me to help the BAA, but it’s given me the opportunity to improve my writing and make some good friends. Like the TV ads say, ‘Priceless.’ And I wouldn’t have produced so much new work in the past year if I hadn’t been part of the BAA.” Peluso’s work can also be found at Art & Soul Gallery in the Old Bay Marketplace and in the BAA’s satellite galleries.

The exhibit will run from May 15 through June 23. Admission is free, and all are cordially invited to attend. The BAA Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. The BAA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. For information call 379-2222 or visit www.beaufortartassociation.com.