Karen Ulep

Original Medium: Found Objects, Woodworking, Photography & Digital Media
“Homegrown” (above)
Location of box art: 16th & N Streets


Originally from Atkins, Iowa, Karen Ulep is an artist based in Sacramento, California.  She works at CADA as the Creative Services & Marketing Manager providing writing, graphic design, web design and mixed media art for the organization and for its special events.

Artist Statement

I wanted to create something that represented Sacramento in a really eclectic, whimsical way. The end goal for me was to have pedestrians smile as they walk by and maybe stop to inspect the images a little closer.

I began with collecting specific items that one would associate with Sacramento (Kings tickets, a train to represent Sacramento’s history, and camellias – Sacramento’s official flower).  In looking at EVIVA, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the modern building with something that looked more organic, like a tree.  So I built a display box that would look like a tree or flower box from a distance.  I wanted it to have “windows” of transparency to fool the eye when pedestrians got closer (each side looks as though you can reach inside to grab an object from the opposite panel).

The wagon wheels were added for another reference to Sacramento’s past of horse drawn covered wagons during the gold rush era and for use in transporting agriculture. As for the people, I was thinking friendly CADA faces would be fun to incorporate as we are the official stewards of the Capitol Park Neighborhood, but I wanted them to look like objects for a surreal effect.

The statements burned into the box are just positive affirmations (“Never look back,” “Be True, BeYOUtiful,”and  INSPIRE”), which I also printed in braille using transparent tape.  CADA has several residents who are visually impaired and the Society For The Blind often sends students out into our area to practice their skills; I wanted my artwork to be inclusive.

The images of the eye, bumble bee, leaf, the letter N, and horseshoe when read correctly encourages the viewer, “I believe in you.”  After all, who doesn’t need encouragement these days?

Finally, the face on the top of the box will only be visible to visitors and residents of EVIVA, giving them a secret to share with those who aren’t lucky enough to live there.  I dare you not to smile when you see my friend’s face – it still makes me laugh today and I’ve been looking at this image for months!

Original Medium: Digital Media
Location of box art: 10th & L Streets