From 1941 to 1949, Stoll-Karn’s illustrations were highly sought after by Popular Publications, one of the largest publishers of pulp magazines, and her work appeared regularly in Black Mask, Dime Mystery, Detective Tales, New Detective, All-Story Love, New Love, Love Book, Love Short Stories, Love Novels, Romance, and Thrilling Love, as well Argosy. This special exhibition explores Stoll-Karn’s prolific, nearly decade-long career, and her unexpected journey in a world previously assigned to male artists.
The child of Charles and Anne Stoll, both artists, Stoll-Karn grew up in New York City, where she attended the newly-established High School of Music and Art. During her high school years, she developed a strong portfolio, but took a position as an insurance agency clerk after graduation to help support the family following her father’s death. Discouraged that her efforts to find employment as an artist had not come to fruition, she attempted to burn her portfolio in the incinerator of her Queens, New York building. Too large to fit down the chute, she placed it in front of her door awaiting trash removal, but instead of discarding it, the janitor took time to leaf through her work and shared it with Rafael DeSoto, a famous pulp artist who was also a resident there. Impressed by what he saw, DeSoto referred Stoll-Karn to Popular Publications, and the steady stream of assignments that followed allowed her to establish a thriving freelance career.
In 1949, the artist married Fred Karn, and the two moved to Pittsburgh where he found employment. Her last pulp cover was published that year, but she continued to create art for personal enjoyment, teaching painting and collage at the Community College of Allegheny County, The Sweetwater Center for the Arts, and the North Hills Art Center. Now in her nineties, Stoll-Karn still reaps the rewards of a creative life and explores a range of techniques and styles in her art.
Stephanie Haboush Plunkett
With thanks to Jeanne Torlidas Willow