Karolina Karlic was born in Wroclaw, Poland and immigrated to Detroit, Michigan in 1987. Karlic holds an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she currently resides. Karlic’s work focuses in on labor, industry, diaspora, environmental concerns, and the effects of social upheaval, and has led her to capture imagery all over the world, including the United States, her native Poland, Ukraine, Sierra Leone, French Polynesia, and Brazil. Karlic has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Cultural Exchange International Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Sacatar Foundation, and the Arts Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Cruz and has participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program.

Stemming from the notion of an uprooted childhood, her practice concentrates on the human effects of social upheaval: Close to Home (2005) focuses on Ukraine’s post-Soviet conditions; The Dee (2006) depicts Detroit’s de-industrialization; Dear Diary (2008) explores one online community searching for companionship; RE:What Color is the Sacred (2009), sponsored by Tim Wride and the French Consulate, examines Western views of French Polynesia and the “re-birth” of Tahitian culture. Aberdeen Sierra Leone (2011) portrays a group of progressive post-war adolescent males in West Africa. Rockin’ the Bakken (2012) documents a modern day oil boomtown of North Dakota, USA. Primer/Elementarz (2014) is an exploration of the personal stories of those who exist behind the US auto industry, along with charting the evolution (or de-evolution) of that industry, and as a result, how our social dynamic at large has shifted. From a personal perspective, this book tracks the reach of the US auto industry, stretching from Detroit, to California, to Eastern Europe - Poland, where Karlic’s father—an engineer—implemented new industrial plants. As a new approach on a family chronicle, the book’s five chapters are punctuated by a father’s attempts to communicate abroad via texts, one sign of his lifelong effort to sustain both his family and his own identity during many shifts in location, temporary residence, and work.

Her project, Rubberlands, is an ongoing photographic survey maps the ways rubber manufacturing is socially, ecologically and systemically formed. Following the trajectory of Karolina Karlic's earlier work which explored the automobile industry in Michigan, Rubberlands proceeds from Midwest cities like Detroit and Akron, Ohio—once the rubber capital of the world—which serve as entry points to networks of globalization. Connecting the company archives of Henry Ford, Goodyear, Goodrich, General Tire and Firestone, she traces the evolution of an industry that relies heavily on outsourcing of the Hevea brasiliensis (Amazonian rubber tree). Her photographic fieldwork in Brazil has taken her to manufacturing plants in Salvador and Itaparica, Michelin rubber plantations in the Atlantic forest, a fisherman’s village on the coastal rivers of Itubera in Bahia and the vestiges of Henry Ford's planned community in the Amazon.

Karlic reveals threatened landscapes, sites of reforestation and working factories against the backdrop of their surrounding communities; scenes where living things are transformed into assets and removed from their life worlds to supply the demands of capital. By weaving together historical archives and contemporary renderings of environs shaped by production, Karlic moves beyond capturing a static place and time—and instead, configures a dynamic space for contemplating the inextricable social and personal bonds surrounding labor and natural resources. Here, she invites the viewer into a new imaginary where historical consciousness is critical to reflecting on our relationship to consumption.