January 28, 2015

The Abstract Landscapes of Keith Karnok

Art Notes

“Pedant” by Keith Karnok

OFF THE GRID: Inspired by the raw beauty of the wilderness, the landscape paintings of Keith Karnok, currently on view at Last Resort Grill through the end of the month, present abstract scenes influenced by worldly travels. In order  to capture the delicate terrains portrayed through his artwork, he left society behind to begin an intimate journey with nature.

“I accidentally landed a job as an art instructor at a youth summer camp in the Rocky Mountain National Park my senior year of art school,” says Karnok. “After experiencing the amazing wilderness out west I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life but be immersed in it. I found it hard to finish my last year of design school, knowing that I no longer wanted to be working at a fancy graphic design firm, but rather pursuing a career as a wilderness guide.”  

After graduating from the Lamar Dodd School of Art with a BFA in graphic design, Karnok backpacked over 8,000 miles on foot, traveling from the U.S. to parts of Asia, Europe and South America. Intense periods like a five-month, 2,200 mile trip from Maine to Georgia along the Appalachian Trail and a four-month, 2,700 mile journey from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail allowed for full immersion into nature. He also worked with three different organizations in the. U.S. as a wilderness therapy guide. 

“I remember having a fairly famous guest artist speak to our class. He said the best way to improve as an artist was to get out there and experience the world,” says Karnok. “By the time I finished art school, I was so burned out on drawing and painting that it took several years of traveling around the world before I ever created another piece of art. I kept telling myself that even though I wasn't being productive as an artist, I was building a foundation that couldn't be learned in the classroom.”

Following hundreds of weeks unplugged in the wilderness, Karnok finally returned to creating art. After selling several paintings through The Journey Home Gallery in East Greenwich, RI, where he was being represented, he had enough credibility and confidence to start marketing and selling his work himself. He has since relocated back to Athens, where he grew up, and has been working as a full-time artist for over seven years.

“I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and amazement when I see and experience something raw and beautiful in the wilderness. It is a connection and an excitement toward life and the world. It feels like a drug the way it affects me,” says Karnok. “My paintings are not literal landscapes. Some of my paintings are more abstract than others. But my hope is that the viewer can feel that same connection and aliveness while looking at one of my paintings that I experience when I'm out in the wild.”

ARTS IN COMMUNITY GRANTS: To promote creative placemaking, the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission will offer two Arts in Community Grants of $1000 each to public art projects designed by local artists or organizations. Art in any form—visual art, performances, events, activities or technology—is welcome, and proposals will be evaluated based on the level of community enrichment, contribution to local identity and artistic merit. Last year, the ACAC awarded $500 grants to curator Lizzie Zucker Saltz for the exhibit “Reverberations: Athens Celebrates Elephant Six” at Lyndon House and to the Georgia Museum of Art for the ARTSwap, an artist trading card project held during AthFest. To request an application, which is due back on Friday, Feb. 27, email

PUBLIC ART MASTER PLAN: Moving forward with the development of a Public Art Master Plan, the ACAC has also issued a RFP to locate a Public Art Master Planner, who will be expected to develop a long-range plan for enhancing the city’s cultural assets and encouraging aesthetic development. The PAMP will be responsible for developing a comprehensive work plan, leading public engagement efforts and gathering community input. Proposals are due Thursday, Feb. 12 and can be found at