PHOTOS BY Paul Flessland and Karman Rheault
Artist Karman Rheault is a master of all mediums. For the past 20 years, her passion for creating new and eccentric works of art has led her on a path of discovery through different forms of artistic techniques.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” said Rheault, adding that her workshop in rural Moorhead, Snowfire Studio, is set up so she can wield a welder and paintbrush in the same day. “It gives me more flexibility,” she said.
Though Rheault has immersed herself in multiple mediums, her heart now lies with a plasma cutter, designing three-dimensional steel sculptures and mixed-media work that combines metal and wood.
A LOVE OF METAL
Rheault’s artistic beginning centered around pottery and painting, she got her ZOTA lead certification and started focusing more on painting when she and her husband decided to start raising a family. But everything changed when a painter friend pushed her to attend a beginners welding course, where she was introduced to basic welding tools.
Most of Karman Rheault’s paintings show similar characteristics of her metalwork. Though painting was a past passion for Rheault, she now focuses most of her time welding. “Paisley” 8’x10′
“By the end of the two-hour class, I was done with painting,” she laughed. “I was pretty sure this was going to take over my life for awhile.”
She bought all the necessary tools by the end of the week. With the beginners course as her only training, she began teaching herself different welding techniques. Through trial and error, Rheault was able to uncover the material’s hidden qualities.
“Fusion with History” 33” x 16.5″
steel and wood
“That little class was enough to help me build the confidence needed to experiment and figure out my own style,” said the self-taught metal sculptor. “When you’re not trained, you feel more free to screw up. What I love about being an artist is that you get to say, ‘I’m not listening to the rules.’ You have a little bit of freedom to say, ‘No, I’m going to try it my own way.’”
SPARKS OF INSPIRATION
In her metalwork, Rheault embraces the inherent colors of the metal by applying heat or allowing the metals to rust and produce a rich, natural patina. She highlights the natural characteristics of the metals with flowing lines and swirled patterns. Those qualities guide her in the creation of her exquisite and inventive metal work, which ranges from jewelry and layered wall art to 10-foot tall, outdoor sculptures.
In the past three to four years, Karman Rheault has created more artwork for herself to feature throughout her home, including kitchen cabinets and a fireplace mantel.
“Since I was a painter before I started metalwork, I see my pieces as a hybrid between the two,” said Rheault. “I use the metal to create more dimension. A lot of my works are wall pieces similar to a three-dimensional painting.”
While most artists start with an idea in mind, sketching it out before cutting into their materials, Rheault allows her tools to drive her creative process.
“Normally, when I go up to my studio, I only have a theme in mind or a very broad idea. I then grab my piece of steel and just start cutting,” said Rheault. “As an artist, you sometimes have to be brave enough to just jump in.”
“Winds of Change”
10 1/2” x 22 1/2”
Rheault draws her inspiration from multiple aspects of her life: relationships, motherhood, nature, femininity, spirituality, etc. “A lot of my work is me trying to express myself, while also trying to communicate with people,” said Rheault. “Through my art is how I feel my biggest connection with people. I’m a little bit of an introvert, and this is my way of putting myself out there.”
Jewelry pendants made by Karman Rheault
In her piece titled “Fusion,” she blended herself with the Hindu goddess Kali, creating a 10-foot, eight-armed metal sculpture that currently stands out front of Snowfire Studio. Like all her metalwork, each detail of “Fusion” exudes symbolic meaning.
“‘Fusion’ is a blend of myself and the Hindu goddess Kali,” said Karman Rheault. “The piece depicts a very feminine and yet powerful being. As a mother and an artist, I’ve often wished that I had multiple arms to multitask similarily to the strong and dynamic Kali.”
Approximately 10’3” x 3’4” steel
“The piece depicts a very feminine and yet powerful being,” said Rheault. “As a mother and an artist, I’ve often wished that I had multiple arms to multitask similarly to the strong and dynamic Kali.”
27” x 28”
Comparable to nature, she aspires for each of her pieces to be unique and reflect the reality of the natural world where nothing is an exact duplicate. “I’m not comfortable making replicas of my artwork over and over again. I would get bored out of my mind. To me, that’s not creative anymore,” said Rheault.
“Fortified Floral I”
Rheault will never box up her paintbrush or toss her clay. She will always be an artist who’s not contained within the thresholds of one medium.
“In the winter, you want to hibernate for awhile and you’re not always super creative. Those are the days I veer off from metalwork and play with other mediums,” she said. “I’m super in love with metal and that process right now, so it’s sometimes hard to break away from it to do something else.” You can find Rheault’s work at Gallery in Fargo’s historic Black Building on Broadway.
11555 15th St. NW, Moorhead