Meet Her Hands: Karen Navarro

Meet Her Hands is a collaborative exhibition series, produced by #bbatx and the Elisabet Ney Museum every summer, featuring three Texan women artists. This season, we're proud to host photographer Karen Navarro, artist Maribel Falcon and artist duo Big Chicken & Baby Bird. Each artist will showcase work within the Elisabet Ney's collection for two weeks, and throughout the summer we'll explore sculptor Elisabet Ney's legacy, while writing a new history of women in the arts.

The first exhibition in Meet Her Hands, Belonging in Modern Times  by artist Karen Navarro, opened on June 13. Thank you to our collaborators at the Elisabet Ney Museum, our drink sponsors Austin Cocktails, our volunteers and partners for making this show possible.

Photo by Jinni J.

Photo by Jinni J.


"In my work I explore themes related to personal and social identity and, femininity as a cultural construct. It expresses self-referential questions that connect in a much larger scale to these ideas of construction of identity, societal expectations and the understanding of the being. The work prompt a discourse about our subconscious will to comply with the contemporary societies' canons when these are in fact misleading.” — Karen Navarro


Hosted within the guest artist space at the Elisabet Ney Museum, Belonging in Modern Times by Karen Navarro is a study of self-portraiture, social media and belonging. Here are a few notes from BBATX Committee Member Kaia Adams and Karen Navarro’s opening reception artist talk:

On what led her to the work she does today

“I would say that I grew up surrounded by an artistic environment, my grandmother was a dressmaker and my grandfather, who I didn't get the chance to meet, liked to draw. I remember spending my childhood days with my grandmother in her atelier. And, I think that was what led me to study fashion design. While I was in my final year of college in 2014, my husband, who was not my husband at that time, got transferred to Houston. And, after a few trips back and forth to The States I decided to stay with him and eventually we got married.

For various reasons, I decided not to pursue fashion design any further. Instead, I decided to enroll in a certificate program at the Houston Center for Photography. I was very fortunate that everything came organically. I found a passion for photography and a medium that allows me to express myself in a way where I can create my own worlds with no restrictions, norms or rules to follow. Nonetheless, I found myself wanting to experiment more- to create work that is made with my hands- which is the work I am making today. I feel that my journey in experimentation haven't ended yet. In the future I would like to experiment with sculpture.”

On rebuilding oneself in a society that imposes many expectations, roles, and identities

“I have approached this journey of rebuilding myself by focusing in myself. For me it's a journey of acceptance and self-love, of recognizing and understanding yourself. Accepting that we are just humans, and that we all makes mistakes. That is why self-kindness is also very important. I had to challenge myself to believe that I was worth enough and that I was capable of doing whatever I want regardless what other people may think. I know it’s hard but life is short. So why don’t try to overturn all these wrong ideas about how we should live, how we should act, etc?

Besides all that, I also try to be very grateful for every little thing. I take time to look at the sky and appreciate nature. Life can get hectic, but it's important to be present.”

On tapping into her creativity

“Usually, how I do approach a new piece it's very different from one to another. It could start with a color that I saw on the streets or lighting and shadow that inspired a mood. It could be a self-referential question, a philosophical idea, or something in what I believe in and I want to share. Photography for me is about creating conversations, making relevant a topic that may be only relevant for me. It's about inviting people to question along with me. My work doesn't offer answers because I don't believe in absolute truths. And, in the in-between of this dichotomy of not believing in absolute truths and having an opinion at the same time is where I position myself every time I approach I new body of work. Inviting you, seducing you through a highly stylized image to reflect on topics that challenge our social notions that some may want to avoid.”

On advice for aspiring artists within our #BBATX community

“I would say, work hard and work smart. Do your thing, follow your guts. Don't worry about the trends, just be you. Because when the work is genuine it gets through and everything will come organically. BELIEVE IN YOU! Be patient, be perseverant, in the art world, as in many others, everything takes time. Always try to be the best you.”

Photo by Jinni J

Photo by Jinni J


You can view Karen Navarro’s Belonging in Modern Times through June 25, 2019 at the Elisabet Ney Museum during museum hours. Our next exhibition in the series, Memoria by Maribel Falcón, will open on June 27 from 6:30 to 9 PM. Click here for details.