Silicon Valley Open Studios

Connecting artists to art enthusiasts

Artist: Karen Spiro

Studio: Artisanal Chairs

American Gothic
Title: American Gothic
Description: Acrylic on wood, canvas seat and back
Media: Furniture/Woodworking
Size: 19 x 33 x 16
artist thumbnails
artist thumbnails
artist thumbnails

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Contact Karen Spiro



Phone: (215) 432-5476

2020  Showings

Aug 15 - 16 , Site: 202
1106 Willow Glen Way
San Jose, CA 95125


About Karen Spiro

I am trained as an artist (Philadelphia College of Art) with extensive studies in art history (New York University), but, generally, my livelihood has been unrelated to art (fundraising and special events).

Thirty years ago, I started a business—Primarily Portraits—where I match portrait subjects with artists who can make their vision a reality. We have been commissioned by hospitals, universities, corporations and individuals to document a moment in time. For me, portraits are always front of mind.

I lived most of my life in the Philadelphia region. When I left my tiny house in Center City for a carriage house with expanded space, I needed a dining table and chairs. So, I made a table out of a door—with cast iron legs—and covered it with a pattern of marble papers. I went to used-furniture stores and gathered up a bunch of lonely chairs. One day, sitting at the table, I thought it might be fun to paint portraits on the chairs so I wouldn’t be eating alone.

The house had a wonderful space for a studio so it wasn't hard to get back into painting. It was so much fun! I kept painting, even when my dining room was full. Actually, I couldn’t stop. When the Philadelphia Art Museum had a Cezanne show in 1996, I painted and sold Cezanne chairs. Eventually, I moved to a lovely townhouse, but it had no studio space. Eighteen years later, when I moved to California I found a little house with a garage that was too small for my car, but the right size for a studio. I was back in business!

My style has evolved over nearly 30 years of painting. I like to find chairs that speak to me of a certain time, a certain artist. The early chairs are simpler: a portrait, another painting or design on the back of the seat and brightly colored legs. After a while, the chairs became more decorative with nearly every surface covered in images and patterns.

I’ll keep on painting whatever I like, but I love to collaborate on commissions. My goal is to share my love of the history of art with others. If the chairs make people smile, it's a good day.