1. Creator of note
The impulse to create grows out of a sense that there’s something missing in the world.
It doesn’t have to be something big. It doesn’t have to intend to right the planet’s wrongs. It just has to emerge from an observation that something needs to be addressed, and only you can do that.
|Yvonne Smith, Kate O'Neill and Karsten |
Soltauer at the opening of Yazoo Taproom,
March 2010. I'm in the picture inasmuch
as I'm behind the camera.
2. Questioner of people
He would have operated just fine as a journalist, as well. He asked some of the most penetrating questions, even of people he met moments before. And he was dogged in his pursuit of getting you to tell your story.
It was Karsten’s way of tapping the essence of a person, and it was done without guile or agenda. He simply and genuinely wanted a better sense of what made you tick. It helped him fill in the gaps of where you could fit in his creation, all the while you were puzzling over this intensely curious man with the vividly blue soul patch.
3. Hugger of friends
He insisted on giving you a hug. He must have rebuffed a half-dozen of my attempts at a handshake before I got the clue that when you greeted Karsten, you were going to hug him. It was part of his ritual, his connection with you, and it became something you looked forward to when you came into contact with him.
4. Lover of Kate
Theirs was an interesting combination to glimpse from afar and up close. She with the pragmatic, data-loving, multi-lingual intellect infused with a liberal dash of whimsy; he with the visual, spatial, emotion-gathering ability to draw out important concepts and redirect meaning with clarity. They were complimentary of each other, and complementary to each other. They are the human embodiment of the relationship between the colors blue and orange.
5. Respecter of time
His studio was his sanctuary, be it when he was in creation mode or when entertaining guests during his and Kate’s now-legendary parties. You entered said sanctuary at your own risk, because more likely than not, you’d end up revealing something about yourself, be it to Karsten alone or to others gathered downstairs, as part of the price of entrance.
But if you took a few moments to look around at the walls, at the items and images and totems that served to inspire Karsten, you picked up on a few things. One, there was a very definite sense of order, as items were neatly placed on the walls, grouped very carefully. And two, many of the images were from times gone by, not specifically retro or antique, but more from a sense of wanting to learn from the past.
Combine that with the house the studio resides within being one of the oldest in Germantown, and you get the sense of Karsten as a man without a time, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable with the age he lived in, but rather belonging to all time at once. As he does now.
6. Keeper of forever
Creativity itself is an ephemeral process; to tell somebody you can describe it easily is to lie to them. I’ve spent more than 20 years around musically creative people, attempting to translate their process and their output to a general public. Trying to encapsulate creativity of visual art is an even more complex (and perhaps futile) pursuit. But it seems to come down to taking something that means something to you and expressing it in a way that means something to somebody else.
The following is the closing slice of a poem from another visual artist friend of mine:
From “Fingerprint” by Kim Thomas:
If I lay you down on my heart
and cut around the edges
and then give it to you,
I have given you the part of me
that is shaped like you.
Full of breath and spirit,
I am calmed and stilled to have completed today.
It’s emblematic of what Karsten did for so many of us…take a piece of himself and shape it into something we will keep with us forever.
I wrote this Tuesday in a far more public, far less personal space, but I wish to say it again: Yours is a beautiful, curious spirit separated from us far too soon. We will carry it with us always, and will never see the color blue the same.