Karen Mahaffy


PLAYhouse, 2015
Painted steel and etched concrete

PLAYhouse is a shade structure inspired by the neighborhood that existed before Hemisfair, where “saltbox style” houses once stood on the project site. This playfully scaled down structure honors the overall proportions and style of the original houses and creates a space of pretend.

Steel wall panels are perforated with laser cut period wallpaper patterns while roof panels mimic large shady pecan trees. A scaled floor plan is etched into the concrete slab. A poem, etched onto the concrete walkway, speaks to how a house can reside in our memories. The poem is organized so it can be read backwards (starting with a question “who lived there”) as one approaches the house, or forwards (with the statement “a house remains”).

The overall effect of these combined elements creates playful and delicate shadows. It is a space of pretend and wonderment which addresses a period in the history of the site and surrounding neighborhood.

Karen Mahaffy has exhibited across Texas at such venues as Artpace, the San Antonio Museum of Art, Sala Diaz, Blue Star Center for Contemporary Art, the McNay Art Museum, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary (Dallas), and the Center for Contemporary Art (Dallas). She has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as Locust Street Projects in Miami, SmackMellon in Brooklyn and the Instituto Cultural de León in Guanajuato, Mexico. Mahaffy was selected for a solo exhibition at Women & Their Work in Austin in 2009. She has been featured in programs such as “Artist Looking at Art” at the McNay Art Museum and “Two to Watch” at ArtPace. Mahaffy was the recipient of the Dozier Travel Grant from the Dallas Museum of Art, (2004); participated in a Fulbright-Hays Program to China (2004) and was awarded a Fulbright Scholars Grant to Estonia (2009). She was artist-in-residence at the Bei Gao Studios/ Red Gate Gallery in Beijing (2006) and at the Estonian Artists’ Association in Tallinn (2009). She was most recently in residence at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin in April-July 2014. Karen currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Artist Website: www.karenmahaffy.com