Magical Irish art of Karl Mullen

Karl Mullen

1954 —
Washington, DC
Mixed media

“I am as concerned with magic as I am with meaning. I still cling to the notion that art can mean something—that the individual can mean something.”

Excerpted from an email to Kelly Ludwig, author of Detour Art, 18 June 2007.

Karl Mullen, a native of Dublin, is a self-taught artist, composer, singer, and songwriter. His unique painting approach has developed without the boundaries of formal training.  He paints on almost any surface—toilet paper, automobile hoods, wooden planks, receipts, coffee cups, parking tickets, milk cartons, movie stubs, and even paper—with a mixture of raw powder pigments, walnut oil, and wax medium. His images of dreams, boxers, ghosts, whiskey, cities, and love are inspired by Irish folklore.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has recognized Mullen as one of the Top 50 Cultural Forces in Pittsburgh.  He was chosen as one of Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Innovators Without for 2002, which recognized independent artists who create unusual work or devise distinct artistic events without the benefit of institutional support or widespread fame.  An accomplished international visual artist, Mullen has been the recipient of many awards including the Buncher Award for Painting and Pittsburgh Magazine’s Harry Schwalb Excellence in Arts Award.

He has had countless musical releases during his career and was recently chosen by the Songwriters Hall of Fame to be included on The Best of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Showcase: Volume I and has received a Grammy nomination for his song entitled Whiskey from the Field.  Mullen has been recognized by WYEP radio as one the Top 10 Local Artists of 2002 as well being included in their Top 20 CDs of 2001 with his release of Mercy Me With Curses.  He has designed and performed soundscapes with the Junction Dance Theatre, Frick Fine Arts Museum, Bricolage Productions, Brew House, and Quantum Theatre.

(Photos courtesy of Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations and Kelly Ludwig)

Bibliography & Links:

“Detour Art—Outsider, Folk Art, and Visionary Folk Art Environments Coast to Coast, Art and Photographs from the Collection of Kelly Ludwig” by Kelly Ludwig, Kansas City Star Books, 2007.

“Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations Coast to Coast Travel-o-Pedia” by Randy Mason, et. al., Kansas City Star Books, 2009.

On DVD – Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, “Next Stop New England”, KCPT, Kansas City Public Television, 2003.

Home Page of Karl Mullen

Lindsay Gallery